My heart goes out to all those who have lost their loved ones in conflicts overseas.

July has proved to be an incredibly difficult month for our Armed Forces operating in Afghanistan.

With three of my Regiments deployed on Operation Herrick at the moment, The Welsh Guards, The Black Watch and The Mercian Regiment, each of whom have lost soldiers during this tour of duty, including the Commanding Officer of the Welsh Guards, I am only too well aware of the immense challenges our Servicemen and women face.

Their mettle has been tested to the full and, as always, they have not been found wanting.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost their loved ones in conflicts overseas.

I can barely begin to imagine the unbearable anguish and grief they are suffering as they come to terms with their loss.

With our Forces fighting far from home - out of sight and, I fear, too often out of mind - sometimes it is not until they return home in flag-draped coffins that we become truly aware of all that we are asking of them.

At times like this it is hard to find a way of expressing adequately the depth of my sympathy and gratitude to the young men and women, and their families, who sacrifice so much for this country.

I know my gratitude is shared by the vast majority of people in the UK.

When I talk to injured servicemen at Selly Oak Hospital, present medals to my Regiments who have returned from operations, or visit their families while they are overseas, I am struck by the value our soldiers place on the support they receive from people at home.

Whether it is cheering them on during a homecoming parade, solemnly lining the route of a funeral cortege, donating to Service charities or simply buying a soldier a pint in the pub, this support is noticed and greatly appreciated.

The Millies offer us another opportunity to thank the men and women who serve this country; to learn more about the challenges which confront them on a daily basis and to highlight their extraordinary dedication and professionalism, both at home and abroad.

I am very grateful to The Sun for organizing this event for the second year running, and for the newspaper's continued support of our Armed Forces, whose loyalty, selflessness and courageous spirit is an example to us all.

We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.