James Heappey Weekly Column

On Saturday, it is Armed Forces Day and ordinarily we would be celebrating the service of our soldiers, sailors, and air men and air women with parades and other celebrations, as well as saluting the service of our Armed Forces veterans.

This year, the events will be lower key but they’re no less important – particularly after our Armed Forces have played such a central role in the nation’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.

As Minister for the Armed Forces over the past 6 months, it has been quite incredible to see the speed at which our military solves whatever problem we throw at them.

Back in March the country was terrified that we would run out of intensive care beds. Our Armed Forces played a crucial role in building temporary hospitals in locations across the country.

At the same time, we were worried about the capacity of our local authorities to support millions of shielded people. Our Armed Forces deployed military personnel to assist wherever local government needed.

Then there was the requirement to test hundreds of thousands of people a day. Our Armed Forces designed and delivered the mobile testing units which are so crucial to delivering that.

In every corner of the UK, whenever there has been a gap in our public services – from the coastguard to PPE distribution – the men and women of our Armed Forces, both regular and reserve, have been ever willing to stand up to the danger that comes from working in proximity to this lethal virus in order to keep the rest of us safe.

This has been an effort which – rightly – our brave clinicians in the NHS have taken all the praise and it should be no other way, as in this fight they have been on the front line. But as it is Armed Forces Day on Saturday, perhaps we can pause and reflect that, in addition to all the amazing things they do in ensuring our nation’s security, for the past three months they have also provided an invaluable service in helping us navigate through this crisis.