It is time once again to launch The Sun’s Military Awards Campaign and begin the search for extraordinary examples of bravery, fortitude, resilience and determination by our Servicemen and women. I cannot help but feel that this is the easier part of the task, as there are quite simply so many remarkable examples of soldiers, sailors and airmen and women doing extraordinary things. The more difficult task is to try and decide between them just who should receive an award, as they all deserve recognition.
When meeting service personnel from all three services, my wife and I continue to be astonished by their efforts and the determination they have to succeed, no matter what challenge they face. Indeed, the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan will continue to be a very tricky operation and our troops will remain exposed to every conceivable danger; it is not over yet. I know very well just how much worry this danger creates for families and loved ones, as my own son, Harry, served in Afghanistan over the Winter.
The challenges that our Armed Forces face are not just confined to physical and psychological injuries sustained on the battlefield. The effect on morale of long and enduring campaigns that separate troops from their loved ones again and again, of redundancy programmes that are reshaping our Armed Forces and even the threat to our off duty troops in the perceived sanctity of their homeland as seen with the brutal death of Fusilier Rigby all take their toll. I know that each and every member of our Armed Forces takes heart from the knowledge that we fully support them and we must never tire of letting them know that.
Over the last few years, every soldier, sailor, airman and woman has demonstrated beyond all doubt that they can stand firm against any adversity. They are now met with the requirement to step forward in the face of enormous uncertainty, whether the next operation is in the Middle East, Africa or any number of places which we seem to see in conflict on our television screens or in our newspapers. I have no doubt whatsoever that they will rise to the challenge. I am also convinced that the prospect of such a challenge presents an enormous opportunity both for our reserve forces, which will increase in size over coming years, and for our young people.
I know through the work of my Prince's Trust over the last thirty-seven years that practical action in the service of others not only motivates young people, but also challenges and develops them and I believe many more young people should have that opportunity. With that in mind, it is hoped that we will be able to develop a Campaign for Youth Social Action, supported by all the political parties, which will have the long-term aim of getting 50% of all young people involved in some sort of service to their community. I know that those returning from service in our Armed Forces can have such a vital role to play as role models and leaders in making this happen.
So in addition to recognising the superb work of our serving troops, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the ongoing work of charities that support both the Armed Forces and our veterans. The enduring legacy of any campaign or battle will be wounded troops, bereaved families and lives that have been changed forever. I am convinced that we all have a role to play in helping those who have suffered as a result of their service, even when it is not in their nature to ask for help. Donations to charities, wristbands, t-shirts, car stickers and fund-raising activities all offer a visible and often vocal means of showing our unending support for our Armed Forces.
The Sun’s ‘Millies’ have also offered us a means of showing our support and highlighting the tremendous acts of gallantry and self sacrifice that mark out our servicemen and women as the best in the world. Now in their sixth year, I am immensely proud to support these awards once again. They really do offer us all a chance to register our profound thanks and admiration for the Armed Forces.