A note from Esther McVey: THEY DESERVE MORE THAN A MEDAL
On Friday, the 8th May, the phrase “we are at war against an invisible killer,” sadly, had an even greater meaning than normal, as plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, were, for the most part, shelved.
The brave men and women who lost their lives in World War II, and those that fought so courageously to protect King and Country 75 years ago, certainly deserved far more recognition than any lockdown restrictions would have ever permitted. But, it was not to be.
It is, in many ways, typical of the British military that, on VE Day, they quietly got on with their jobs. They neither complained nor kicked up a fuss about the inevitable disappointment they, and the entire country felt, about the substantial, and disappointingly necessary, scaling back of the planned commemorations for their predecessor's valiant efforts.
For centuries, the British military has personified “the best of British.” Their recent, all to infrequently mentioned, efforts with regards to their significant role in the fight against the invisible killer, COVID-19, is just the latest example of their extraordinary skills, expertise, and resourcefulness.
From the personnel that helped set up the Nightingale Hospitals and the military staff working at the mobile testing units, to the personnel supporting the country's ambulance services and those assisting in the delivery of vital Personal Protection Equipment, the British military is standing shoulder to shoulder with the country's other essential workers in the fight against COVID-19.
Why then, are the very same men and women, who protect us in times of war and provide such vital services in times of peace, so quickly forgotten when they leave the military? It is an uncomfortable question to ask, let alone answer, isn’t it?
The very groups of people who, sadly, quite literally, have had to take a bullet for you and I, are still not being given the respect or practical help that they require when they leave the military. This must change, and it must change now.
"Local people will consider them an issue, a problem. Whereas. in actual fact, we need to change our attitude on that and realise they’re an exceptional resource with a really amazing skillset," says Nick Knowles, host of DIY SOS Veteran Street, and my guest on this week's episode of the Blue Collar Conversations podcast.
Nick has seen, first-hand, the resourcefulness and resilience of military veterans through his work, both in front of, and away from, the camera. As he and I discuss, now is the time to invest in the necessary re-training and support for ex-military personnel so that they can capitalise on the post COVID-19, digital opportunities that will exist.
"Military veterans don't want charity. They just want an opportunity and somewhere decent to live," says Nick. Where should these homes be built? It’s simple. In the locations that those Veterans return to after serving the country. That’s often the North of the Country, which is, yet again, another reason for the Government to level-up the North/South divide and pump prime the Northern Power House with re-trained, hardworking ex-military personnel that this country must provide better support to.
Anything other than the implementation of a plan that both supports and provides new and exciting opportunities for the Country’s veterans would be a disservice of the highest calibre.