The following column was published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 4 September 2015.
One of the best things about Barnsley is the pride we take in supporting our armed forces. Whether that is the thousands who mark Remembrance Sunday, the fundraising we do for the Royal British Legion or ‘Help for Heroes’, or turning out for ‘freedom parades’ by our own Yorkshire Regiment.
That’s why earlier this summer I chose to volunteer for something called the ‘Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme’. This commits MPs to spend a few weeks a year in uniform with our Armed Forces.
The majority of MPs today have never served in the forces. Historically, most senior politicians – prime ministers from Churchill to Callaghan – had seen active service in one of the world wars. That’s why we’re lucky in Barnsley to have ex-Army Major Dan Jarvis who brings important experiences and insights to Parliament.
This summer I was with British forces in Cyprus. It was incredibly humbling to meet the crews of Tornados conducting combat operations over Iraq. I saw the Black Watch patrolling the UN ‘buffer zone’. I saw a fantastic display from medics serving in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment on how they care for wounded soldiers.
I also got to spend time with some amazing people from the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. They were just finishing a tour of duty in Cyprus and were looking forward to coming ‘home’ to Catterick.
Parliament often debates and votes on our defence policy, how we fund our armed forces, and the most important decision for any MP – whether or not to take military action.
My time with our Armed Forces is about gaining more knowledge and understanding. But it’s also an opportunity to say thank you to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. And I know that’s something that proud people of Barnsley would wholeheartedly support.