AROUND about this time every year, I mention the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal and urge people to support it.
Every year I’m pleased to say it gets bigger and becomes more successful.
Last year’s appeal raised a record £40m and organisers are aiming to surpass that this year with a target of £42m.
In these days of 24 hours a day news we have never been more acutely aware of the fantastic jobs our servicemen and women carry out on a daily basis in some of the most hostile and dangerous places on earth.
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We appreciate more than ever the bravery and courage these people show and for some, the ultimate sacrifice they give on our behalf.
Remembrance Day services across the country are becoming increasingly well attended.
Whether people believe in or support our country’s military action or not, the nation is united in showing support for our soldiers, sailors and airmen who have lost their lives while serving their country.
It is hugely encouraging to see so many projects and charitable causes now in place to support our military personnel and their families.
The music charts often contain charity records from groups like the Military Wives or The Soldiers.
Most professional sports team get specially embroidered poppies put on their jerseys for a match and organisations like Help for Heroes are among the fastest growing charities in the country.
A few months ago, I explained how Hartlepool Borough Council, along with many of our local partner organisations, had signed up to a Community Covenant which is a promise to ensure that members and former members of the armed forces are not disadvantaged in our society as a result of service.
This includes things like having easy access to information around housing, employment and benefits.
It means the town supporting the armed services wherever possible and helping to raise the profile of the work they do.
Even things like ensuring that any employees who are members of the retained services get the appropriate and relevant support from their employers.
The Community Covenant is something we take extremely seriously because we want our armed forces to know they can rely on Hartlepool to support them and their communities.
The Royal British Legion spends £1.7m every single week on direct welfare support to families of armed services personnel.
They provide immediate support and lifelong care to those in need.
Nearly nine million people are eligible for help from the legion and they aim to help more than 500,000 of those who need it most.
Every poppy they sell goes towards helping these families and with the number of people who need help growing every year, it is vital that we all support the poppy appeal once again.
There have been some pretty high profile national and regional launches of this year’s poppy appeal and our region was treated to a pretty spectacular flashmob dance at the Grey’s monument, in Newcastle city centre.
For those of you who don’t know what a flashmob is, you had best check out the Royal British Legion website for an explanation and pictures.
Sian Cameron is once again doing a great job in promoting the poppy appeal in Hartlepool where she will be hoping to raise record amounts.
We will, of course be holding the annual services of remembrance a little after 10.30am at the war memorial in Victory Square and Redheugh Gardens, on the Headland.
I wouldn’t like to guess at what the weather is going to do, but please try and support the services regardless of the elements.
Each year we get more service and ex-servicemen and women turning out for the services and the parades and I know they really appreciate the support of the public.