We all know that we could not be as we are, collectively and individually, without their selfless duty.The Prince of Wales
Somebody once said that heroes have the whole earth for their tomb. This country, perhaps more than any other, knows the wisdom of these words. On war memorials up and down the land, on church walls and in school assembly rooms, we are reminded every day that men and women from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth have laid down their lives for freedom and the values on which our society is based. The sacrifice they made – and continue to make – must never, ever be forgotten.
The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, which commemorates our fallen from all military campaigns and operations since the Second World War, along with the Cenotaph in London, ensures that this country will never forget. The supremely beautiful and tranquil surroundings at the NMA allow you to contemplate what each of those names inscribed upon its walls actually means. A life. A family. Duty and steadfastness. Sacrifice.
To reflect on these fundamentals at this time of year is particularly poignant and appropriate. Today, all over the world, British people and the Nations of the Commonwealth will be coming together to remember loved ones, friends, even strangers. We read sometimes about our Nation not being a united society, and that its old values have been forgotten. When I see the extraordinary response on this day, every instinct tells me that this is not true.
Even after death, those who have paid the supreme sacrifice still serve us all by uniting us in a common realisation that, through their example, an overriding sense of duty and a willingness to defend freedom at any cost are the values which really count, the finer traits of humanity to which we should all aspire.
The country is as fervent in its support for our Armed Forces, and the sacrifices that they make, today as it has ever been. The national awareness of what young men and women are doing for us in the most extreme and hostile environments imaginable is striking and moving.
I find this remarkable and, frankly, humbling – particularly when one considers that, despite the level of sacrifice being made by individuals today, far fewer of us are likely to know someone in uniform than, say, was the case in our grandparents’ day. Nowadays, for the majority of families up and down Britain, the full impact of what is means to be at war is seen at several degrees removed. To me, I think, this makes the response of the British people even more remarkable.
In June 2008, I helped launch an appeal to improve and enlarge the visitors’ facilities at the National Memorial Arboretum, so that this awakened awareness can have a focal point. The new buildings will include an education centre to allow many more school children to visit every year, and a new space where large-scale services of Remembrance can be held. Major General Cordingley, the Chairman of the Appeal, described its purpose so simply and so well when he said that we must better honour our heroes and all that they stand for. The Appeal will ensure that we do this to the highest standards – the very least that our Servicemen and women deserve. We all know that we could not be as we are, collectively and individually, without their selfless duty.
I have no doubt that, with your support, the Appeal will succeed. And with the success of the Appeal, our nation will have an invaluable site dedicated to remembering our fallen and wounded. I ask unreservedly for your support.