Repaying the men and women who defend us

In his first Poppy Appeal address His Excellency explains why the work of the Royal British Legion is so important.

“Today, tonight, on 11 November and on Remembrance Sunday this year, British Armed Forces, including some Jersey men and women, will be fighting a long way from home in defence of our democratic values and our individual and collective freedom to decide our way of life. Thirty five years ago, British forces were sent 8000 miles to free British Falkland Islanders and their islands from hostile invasion and 100 years ago, British soldiers, sailors and airmen, Jersey soldiers and Allied Forces were fighting in the most demanding and apparently never-ending War across the Globe, but particularly in Europe.

At this time of year, our thoughts and humanity focuses on those who have been involved in combat over the last 100 years. We seek to provide effective care for those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a consequence of their time in uniform. Sometimes that suffering was a direct result of injuries received in combat but, often, the injuries are not apparent and not physical; often the injuries are hidden from the observer as the veteran passes by in the street. One of the most common traits of veterans is their reluctance to seek help, to show their needs or to appear not to be able to cope. Equally, we need to do whatever we can to continue to support those who have lost loved ones, either as a direct result of combat operations or as a consequence of their injuries.

Many of you will have seen and met the beneficiaries of the Jersey: ‘Holidays for Heroes’ programme. There can be no doubt that this outstanding support for veterans and their families has become a real feature of the Summer here in Jersey. I have met many of the beneficiaries and, as many of you will have found, their praise of and gratitude for this ‘holiday’ away from their often difficult and stressful lives in the UK, means an incredible amount to each and every one of them; however, it also means so much to their families, who are so often the unintended recipients of their frustrations. As with so much of the incredible charitable nature of people here in Jersey, the fact that car drivers, bikers, hotel staff and so many others give of their precious time and energy to ensure that these veterans and their families have a lasting positive experience speaks volumes for the humanity and generosity of Jersey people. But, as we all know, a holiday, a break from the normal routine of our daily lives can be a tonic, but for many veterans their needs last for much longer and that is where the Royal British Legion stands ready to step forward and provide effective advice, help and through-life care if and when our veterans or their families need it.

The decision to go to war or to send men and women on operations is never easy. However, the men and women of our Armed Forces go, because of their sense of duty, their commitment to their comrades and their desire to see people have a choice in the way they live their lives. The nature of much of modern warfare is different to that which our forefathers experienced in the trenches of Flanders, Ypres and Mons; however, out of that terrible war came a national desire, a sense of duty to look after those who had gone to protect others and to prevent totalitarian invasion and rule. Today, those same requirements mean that the men and women of our Armed Forces must often deploy thousands of miles away to face our adversaries and to prevent them from ‘attacking’ our homes and families. Today, fortunately, by World War standards, remarkably few soldiers, sailors and airmen are killed in combat. Nevertheless, physical and mental injuries are a consequence of combat for some of those who seek to defend us against today’s adversaries and they need our help when they return home and for the rest of their lives.

It was out of this complex and demanding set of requirements, at the end of ‘The Great War’, that the nation put its support behind the focused help that is offered by The Royal British Legion (RBL). Today, the RBL provides practical, emotional and financial support to our veterans and their families no matter when their need arises. Many veterans, including those from World War II, Korea, the Falklands, Balkans and Afghanistan as well as other conflicts in which British forces have been in action, only find that they need help late on in life. The full effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder do not always materialise until many years after the individual returns from the combat zone. Just as with the immediate help to adapt homes, cars and employment, the Royal British Legion has the remit to be ready to step forward to help veterans whenever and wherever they need support.

At this time of year, we are asked to give what we can to enable the Royal British Legion charity to support our veterans. Jersey people have a very fine reputation for the magnificent support that they give our Armed Forces and I would urge you to donate generously to the Poppy Appeal to support the essential and extensive work of the Royal British Legion. Over this week you will have seen the wide range of volunteers: our Jersey veterans, members of the cadet forces, Chelsea Pensioners and so many other Jersey men and women who willingly give of their time to collect for this magnificent cause whether that be on the streets, in the shopping areas or in the Poppy Appeal shop in The Royal Square. I am very grateful to all of them for volunteering their time and I am sure that all of you will give whatever you can to enable those veterans and their families who are in need to be supported as much as they deserve for the service that they have given to us. Thank you for your generosity.”