Remembrance Support World War One Centenary and the end of UK combat operations in Afghanistan give particular significance to Remembrance commemorations this year. We particularly remember the heroic acts of John Collins VC of Merthyr Tydfil during WWI and the late Richard Scanlon from Rhymney who died on active service with the QDG in Afghanistan.
I was elected in June 2001; with a National Assembly for Wales in place to deal with many of the main domestic political issues, a more settled Northern Ireland and the Cold War apparently at an end. Conflict and war involving UK military personnel was not thought to be a priority. Three months later (9/11) hijacked airliners were crashing into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon and Al Qaida related terrorism was firmly on the march. Consequently, defence issues have dominated and in many ways shaped my work in Parliament. Taking the view that I should not be prepared to agree to send military personnel where I am not prepared to go myself; I have spent time in scrutiny of ISAF support and combat operations in Afghanistan and UK combat operations in Iraq (which I did not sanction) and other conflict areas. I have seen, directly, some of what our military personnel deal with and endure.
My respect for all those who engage in conflicts and civil emergencies on our behalf has grown with the more I see of what they do to help keep us and our democracy safe. As UK military involvement in Afghanistan reduces, unfortunately, Russian military activity re-emerges and conflict in Iraq and the Middle East threatens. I will be re-visiting Iraq and neighbouring states soon.
Headstones, monuments and medals are important for our reflections on military conflict but there is also a continuing responsibility to support those physically damaged or with hidden scars, as well as the families who have lost and support those who served and serve. Buying and wearing a poppy will show respect but do more than that for those who do and have done much more for us.