War veterans should be recognised for their service

Please see below for my latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald (8 October 15).

Michelle Donelan Column in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald (veterans)

It is a little known fact that the British Royal Navy was heavily involved in landing US troops on Omaha Beach in June 1944. This week I had the immense pleasure of meeting a heroic constituent, Mr Frank Diffell. Mr Diffell is a Royal Navy veteran of that remarkable campaign and I listened intently as he recounted his stories of the enormous efforts and sacrifices made to secure the Normandy beaches to enable the D Day Landings to take place.

Last year France’s President Hollande announced that all surviving D-Day veterans would receive France’s highest military honour – the Legionne d’Honour. Mr Diffell is one of those deserving of the medal but for some reason he has still not received his medal. I am pushing to ensure he now receives the medal he fully deserves.

Our troops stationed at home and overseas made unprecedented contributions to the war effort and it is right to honour the ‘greatest generation’ who allow us to treasure the freedoms we enjoy now in our country.

I am also in close contact with other veterans who live in my constituency, who each contributed to Britain’s hard won victory in WW2 and in campaigns and activities since then to make sure they get the appreciation they deserve.

I believe we should recognise and learn lessons from history – particularly military conflicts – and one of the best ways to honour is to continue to teach future generations about the debt owed to these men and women, many of whom gave their lives, or their youth to safeguard our future. We rightly pay our respects to those members of the armed forces who were killed in conflict and it is equally right that we look after those who survive and who truly know what it was like to perform these selfless acts out of a duty our country.

In Britain, we pride ourselves that our honour medals are not handed out lightly and are worn with pride and dignity by their deserving recipients. We are rightly careful to avoid any abuse of the medal system but we must also be careful not to allow decisions made behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny to be the wrong ones. That is why I am challenging some of the decisions made recently not to award certain medals to these individuals. We sent these brave men to war with an urgency, it should not have taken 70 years to repay and recognise the legacy they gave us. We must act now before it is too late. Lest we forget.

If you know of any local veteran who is in the position of waiting for recognition for their services to our country please contact me on michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk or 01249 704 465.