Some of us would describe our jobs as stressful, but none of us can fully imagine the pressures on our servicemen and women that the risks to life and limb present on tours of duty in areas of conflict.
So it’s right that we pay tribute to the work of our Armed Forces. Most notably, Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday, and Armed Forces Day provide the opportunity to acknowledge the dedication, courage and selflessness that continually protect our nation’s freedoms.
These are national events and we want to pay a more personal tribute: to stand with Buckinghamshire’s Armed Forces personnel who have returned in the past few months from tours abroad, many in Afghanistan.
Which is why I believe tomorrow (Monday) is an important occasion. As county council chairman and Armed Forces Champion, I shall be hosting an evening reception to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ on behalf of Buckinghamshire’s residents. And I’m delighted our Lord Lieutenant, Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, representing Her Majesty the Queen, will be there to recognise the contribution they make.
Quite apart from their role on tours of duty, our Armed Forces play a significant part in the community life of Buckinghamshire: activities for young people through the cadet corps, strong links with our RAF stations at Wendover and High Wycombe, to name two.
We are proud of the formal links established six years ago when we awarded the Freedom of the County to RAF Halton and RAF High Wycombe.
All these links have been strengthened in the past 18 months through Buckinghamshire’s Armed Forces Community Covenant, which has opened the way to fund joint initiatives to the tune of £112,000.
These include the refurbishment of Halton Combined School’s playground, renovation of the garden areas of the two RAF station-supported childcare facilities, a new emergency response vehicle for the RAF which supports the civilian ambulance service, and a leading initiative helping Buckinghamshire’s 200 or so service personnel who leave every year to find civilian jobs.
It is, perhaps, here that we can most effectively put our money where our mouth is: honouring those who have served their country well by helping them wherever possible to remain with their families in the county that has become their home, through harnessing their considerable skills and expertise in business opportunities here.