Ladies and Gentlemen, I just wanted to say a very brief few words as you are all gathered here today, and just really to say that neither of us could meet all of you, but we did our best I think! But I do feel rather humbled by being in the presence of so many remarkable characters who have contributed such remarkable service to this country in different parts of the world, particularly if I may say so in Iraq. One of the things both of us really wanted to do was to pay our respect to all those who have suffered injuries and wounds in one form or another while on active duty on these operational deployments.
But meeting so many of you and seeing you all in one room, does remind us I think of what people like yourselves are putting up with every day of the week, when frequently people in this country don't hear about what is going on. The media don't always report these things and you don't always hear about the number of injuries that are being received, or indeed when you actually see people go through the process of rehabilitation, just what a struggle it can be, how painful, how difficult, frustrating very often from many of you who have been so active in the past to have to put up with losing limbs or whatever it is.
But above all we just want to say a simple thank you for what you all do - what you have done - and how much your service and contribution is appreciated.
You are a remarkable lot if I may say so. I always think that people who join the Armed Forces and then find themselves in difficult, dangerous, hazardous circumstances. I know many of you joined for that! I am not sure what my two are joining for but I imagine it is the same sort of thing! Except they have both got bad backs, bad knees. I keep telling them it is hereditary, much like baldness is hereditary.
But I also just wanted just to take this opportunity to congratulate the staff of places like Headley Court, Selly Oak in Birmingham which I visited earlier this year.
It was nice to see some of you today who I saw there. And in particular, if I may say so, our Fijian representative who I am delighted to find his knee at last has healed and will shortly be able to play rugger again! What the staff do in these establishments is truly remarkable I think and their dedication and all their skill and professionalism is of enormous importance, and again, I just wanted to thank all the hardworking staff for bringing people back to health and reasonable fitness again.
And also I just want to say what huge pleasure it gave us to open the new complex Rehabilitation and Amputee Unit before we came in here which of course will provide outstanding care for those in the Services who have lost limbs or suffered other serious injuries.
And there are of course two key advantages with this new initiative: Firstly it will become a centre of excellence providing both prosthetic limb fittings and dedicated rehabilitation under one roof. Secondly, of crucial importance, by enlarging the facilities here those who have suffered physically and emotionally can be surrounded by those who understand their unique circumstances best. And that, I think, really is of immense importance.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, today really is about recognising the extraordinary courage and dedication of those who serve our country in difficult circumstances. I can only wish all those of you who are continuing in the Armed Forces in your remarkable way, every possible good luck and good fortune in the future, particularly in terms of how you can pass your own experiences on to those who are joining. And also to wish well those who have left and are seeking future employment elsewhere. Above all your exceptional bravery and personal sacrifice is something that is deeply appreciated certainly by my family and myself. And I recognise that there are many others like you who couldn't be here today and we will think of them enormously.
In fact next year I was hoping we might be able to have another of these gatherings for the families of those who have lost their lives during deployments overseas.
We are, above all, immensely fortunate to have men and women like you serving in our Armed Forces, prepared to endure horrific temperatures under very difficult circumstances so if I may say so both of us can only salute your sense of duty, sheer courage, resilience and above all wonderful sense of humour. It is a great thing and keeps the British going! Anyway you are a great inspiration - well done!