As we stop to remember the sacrifice service men and women have made during battle, we too need to focus on a wider issue. Let's be clear, our service personnel are a credit to us, they are some of the best in the world and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for Queen and country. We all know somebody who either currently serves in the armed forces or who has previously served in the forces. Speak to them and they will tell you about the conditions and atmosphere when out on the frontline, it certainly is not pleasant. I am a proud supporter of Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion - two excellent charitable organisations working to help service and ex-service personnel and the families of those service men and women killed in action - they do an incredible job, but the government should do more to help them and so too should the public.
It has been in the news time and time again about war memorials being damaged and plaques engraved with the names of the fallen stolen to be sold to scrap metal dealers. This theft is not only illegal but it is incredibly disrespectful to the community and more importantly to the families and memory of those killed. Scrap metal dealers should be informing the police about such incidents rather than seeing it as an opportunity to make some quick money. There have also been incidents when service men and women have been turned down from shops and hotels, thankfully this is quite rare but there have been incidents cropping up in parts of the country. No matter what such people think of war - soldiers are doing an incredibly brave job.
The majority of the British people fully respect HM Forces and are appalled at the wrecking of the war memorials and the way troops are treated - particularly if servicemen have been injured or have completed their tour of duty. A very recent case which highlights this exact issue is the case of Mark Mullins, an army veteran who killed himself alongside his wife after the benefits of his wife, who had learning difficulties were cut. Mr Mullins and his wife, Helen had to live off £57 a week, he had to walk ten miles a week to a soup kitchen for handouts of free food - this is utterly disgraceful but the worst bit is that this is going on across the country with veterans and injured personnel, and troops suffering from post traumatic stress having to largely rely on charities.
The vast majority of MPs from all sides are opposed to cuts to the defence budget and the loss of military service personnel as a result of the cuts, and yes, cuts do have to be made but the British government should be doing more to support the men and women who are willing to give their lives for their country. Politicians are sometimes criticised by defence chiefs as being out of touch, indeed Admiral Lord West has said "Several factors had a huge impact on the Labour government's popularity and its defence credentials: the controversial invasion of Iraq and the mishandling of its aftermath; the flawed decision to remain in Afghanistan after the initial invasion post 9/11 and the equally flawed decision to move into the Helmand region with its consequent toll on our servicemen's lives." Additionally the Prime Minister, David Cameron recently clashed with defence chiefs telling them "you do the fighting, I'll do the talking" - military chiefs are the ones who know what it's like on the ground and the limits and capabilities of each of the three services.
A leaked memo from a junior officer within the Ministry of Defence which was passed to the Telegraph newspaper shows that the MOD are planning to cut the number of armed service personnel by 16,500 by 2015 rather than the 7000 announced by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox MP. The MOD have been quick to respond to the memo announcing that "The information in the leaked Army memo from a junior officer is incorrect. Beyond those already announced, there are no further Army reductions planned."
The rate of pay within the MOD varies. Those earning the most in the armed services are the Chief of the Defence staff who has a starting salary of £235,000 a year, the Commercial Director General receives a starting salary of £200,000 as does the Chief Operating Officer. The rate of pay for a frontline solider who is deployed on their first operation is between £17,265 and £24,405 It is a ratio of eight to one. Of course due to the current economic situation troops can not be given a pay rise - however what troops do want is to be assured their job will be safe when they come back from deployment. Some soldiers currently on the frontline in Afghanistan are going to be made redundant and this leaked memo from the MOD suggests that up to 2500 injured service personnel could lose their jobs including 350 who have lost limbs.
You can not expect the military to do more and more with less and the Prime Minister needs to realise this before committing our forces to additional missions. The level of service and defence will not be the same. We are remembering those killed in battle, but we also need to remember and reflect on other areas of the armed forces such as the support they receive, commitment they give, and the sacrifice they are willing to make. This is not about partisan politics, it's about standing up for our forces and giving them the support they need. It's about giving the men and women fighting for Britain the recognition they deserve, and it is about making them feel wanted.
Whilst we remember those heroes who have been killed in action, let us too remember those currently engaged in conflict at home and overseas.
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