Saturday, 26 June 2010
Armed Forces Day Events To Honour Military
The country is preparing to demonstrate its support for the military on the second annual Armed Forces Day.
Events will centre on Cardiff where the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will lead a ceremony which is expected to draw a 50,000 strong crowd.
Some 350 other events will also be taking place across the country.
"As a nation, we have a duty to support our Armed Forces for all they do for us," defence secretary Liam Fox said.
"Members of the Armed Forces, both past and present, have made great sacrifices in the name of our country but these men and women do not ask for sympathy, they ask for your support."
The national event in the Welsh capital includes a parade, a church service, an RAF flypast and celebrity endorsements from David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Katherine Jenkins and Graham Norton.
It also marks the end of a particularly difficult week in Afghanistan. Since Sunday, eight British troops have died. In all, more than 300 have now died.
Politicians and military commanders are aware that the casualties and images from the weekly repatriation ceremonies influence public opinion.
Major-General Gordon Messenger, the military spokesman on Afghanistan, hopes events like Armed Forces Day help to balance opinion.
"If I had a plea, I think it would be to better understand the reasons why they're there and the progress that's being made and to not simply view Afghanistan through the lens of the casualties," he told Sky News.
"I think it is incumbent on me and on everyone who has an understanding of the Afghan campaign to do all we can to better inform the public as to those reasons."
On Thursday, hundreds of Territorial Army reserves wore their military uniforms to work as part of the Armed Forces Day events.
One of them was Corporal Stuart White, a soldier in 7 Rifles and a refuse collector from Reading, Berkshire.
"I think it's good. If it raises awareness and support then I am all for it," he said.
"Obviously there can be a bit of downside because not everyone agrees with what's going on. But on the whole I think it's good, anything to raise awareness for the troops and get support for them."
Corporal White's civilian boss is waste operations manager Chris Green, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in March. He supports Armed Forces Day but also supports the war.
"I'll quote my son on that. He was home on R&R just before he was killed," said Mr Green.
"He had three or four friends die out there. He was right next to them. He told me that if we pull out now, then it's basically dishonouring their memory. So that's how he felt about it. Nothing to do with politics, its all about the men."
For details of all the Armed Forces Day events, go to: www.armedforcesday.org.uk
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