Armed Forces Day

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered at events across the country to celebrate Armed Forces Day. 

This was previously known as Veterans Day, but the occasion has been broadened to pay tribute to all our servicemen and women, past and present. 

It was good to see so many events organised across the country to mark the day.  In West Sussex there were parades, church services, military vehicle displays, parachute jumps and flypasts.

I was at the Shropshire Show on Saturday, wearing my Shadow Environment Secretary hat, where we saw a wonderful parade of The King's Troop, a mounted unit of the Royal Horse Artillery that serves as the Queen's ceremonial saluting battery. 

The King's Troop carry out a number of important ceremonial duties and are responsible for firing the Royal Salutes in Hyde Park on Royal and State occasions.  We were all particularly impressed by the number of women troopers and officers.

The Regiment has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this year, Armed Forces Day coincided with the scaling down of military operations in Iraq as US troops transfer control over day-to-day security to the Iraqi forces.

It has, of course, been a controversial war that has demanded a huge sacrifice from the UK, with the loss of 179 of our service personnel since 2003.

And in Afghanistan, we have lost 169 men and women since 2001. 

On Tuesday, 120 members of 45 Commando Royal Marines marked their return from the country with a march from Wellington Barracks to the Palace of Westminster.  Sadly, 33 of their colleagues did not come home and many others were seriously injured during a gruelling six-month tour of Helmand Province. 

I fear that our commitment in Afghanistan will be needed for some while yet.  I believe the cause, to ensure that international terrorists cannot take root again, is right.

But whatever our views about the merits of this engagement, most of us still want to pay tribute to the young men and women who serve our country with such professionalism and dedication.

Michelle Taylor