Ladies and Gentlemen, I shall do my very best not to keep you standing here too long in the rain. I did try to get round before it started raining but at least I hope I've met nearly all of you this evening because I know just what an enormous contribution all of you really have made towards Combat Stress, in one way or another over the years. And I must say, I was enormously proud to have been able to take over as Patron from my darling Grandmother, 11 years ago, and she of course had been Patron for many years, of what was then called the Armed Forces Mental Welfare Association. And I just wanted to mention that this sort of green marquee here is where she used to have lunch quite a lot in the Summer and you can understand why because you could actually sit here for quite a long time without getting too wet.
I have been saying to one or two of you going round that I first really became aware of the huge problem of post-traumatic stress disorder, which Combat Stress is so brilliant at dealing with, after The Falklands War when I became Patron of the South Atlantic Medal Association. I also became particularly aware of it, of the consequences, through the sufferings of many Welsh Guardsmen, particularly a result of the Sir Galahad incident and of course other aspects of that war.
So, as I became more aware, particularly through a great friend of mine in The Navy that I served with, Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly, who ran the field hospital in The Falklands and started to introduce me to some of the veterans that was when I really became aware. Then, I also became aware by visiting homeless hospitals in this country, just how many ex-servicemen were actually homeless 25 per cent or something, so I thought perhaps we should do something about that, so I got Business In The Community and others together and we did find some marvellous pioneering companies who were prepared to try to help ex-servicemen out of homelessness and into employment. So, I do think that now the situation is not quite as bad as it used to be and of course with so much more awareness of this issue, the wonderful work done by Combat Stress and all its staff and supporters, a huge amount now can be done.
Several of you many of you, I think here have helped with the previous appeal, 'The Enemy Within Appeal' and of course, the need is endless. And particularly after the Iraqi and Afghan operations, more and more people are presenting themselves - the requests for help are rising at some 12 per cent each year, and in its 95th year Combat Stress and the service that it provides, is increasingly in demand.
And so, being in my position - I am Colonel-in-Chief, or Colonel of all sorts of different regiments and units - I do have a chance to meet veterans. I do try and encourage commanding officers to take this issue seriously, which fortunately more and more do, and so with the funds raised from these sorts of appeals, there's been a real step change in capability and expertise and outcomes for many veterans are now excellent. So, with your help and the help of other organisations, including the MoD, the NHS, a lot of the services for veterans across the United Kingdom are being successfully reshaped.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, whilst the vast majority of veterans leave the Armed Forces without the need for support, we do have, at the end of the day, a profound and essential duty to care for those who carry the invisible scars of conflict and I can only thank you more than I can possibly say for your utterly invaluable support and tireless efforts and hard work in ensuring that that duty is carried out. Those who have served their country do deserve the best treatment, and so, I can only say that your generous and loyal support makes an immense difference thank you so much.