Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 16th November 2016

Last Sunday we were called upon to remember all those who have served our country in past conflicts. Remembrance events in Crawley are always well-attended and this year was no different, with residents from across the town’s communities coming together in commemoration.

Remembrance Sunday began as a way of acknowledging the nation’s collective loss in the wake of the First World War. As we enter the fourth year of WWI’s centenary it is entirely appropriate that we continue to recall the unprecedented impact of that conflict, but it is also vital we not only remember the sacrifices of those who have participated in more recent conflicts but the ongoing duty we owe to provide practical support for those who have served.

A few years ago, the council unanimously supported the adoption of a Community Covenant with the armed forces, a voluntary pledge of mutual support between the community and the military. Since that time we have worked to ensure the needs of service personnel and veterans are better met in our community, including fulfilling a manifesto pledge to introduce a Veterans Interview Scheme at Crawley Borough Council when we took control.

But the UK still has a long way to go in repaying the sacrifices made by members of its armed forces. Research by The King’s Fund has highlighted that half of the ex-service community has a long-term illness or disability, with far too many going on to develop a mental illness. All too often, for those who have served the services they now need simply aren’t there.

While cuts to public services over recent years has clearly had an impact, a large part of the problem is the lack of records we hold on former service personnel. The Royal British Legion’s ‘Count Them In’ campaign is asking the Government to include questions about military service on the next census, ensuring authorities have the information they require to better meet the needs of those who have left the forces.

To find out how you can support the campaign to ‘Count Them In’, please visit the British Legion’s website at: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/count-them-in

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