I say this every year, and every year reaffirms my commitment to this – this weekend is the single most important of my year as the town’s MP.
This weekend marks Remembrance Sunday, an opportunity for the town to recognise and acknowledge the sacrifices made by Hartlepool’s men and women, particularly in the Armed Forces, but also the town’s civilians, in helping to secure the freedom of this country in its darkest days.
We have Armed Forces Day earlier in the year, and that is a celebration and a more joyous opportunity for this country to say thank you to the contribution the Armed Forces play in the whole social and cultural life of Britain.
Remembrance Sunday is not like that. It is rightly serious, rightly sombre. It is a time to reflect and to mourn.
It is the time for the whole country to come together as one – not something which occurs on a frequent basis – to give thanks and gratitude for the many men and women who have sacrificed many important things – their health, their mental well-being, their future happiness and, all too frequently and tragically, their lives – so that we may live the lives we live in modern Britain.
Our freedoms and liberties are far too often taken for granted, and in most cases not even given a moment’s thought, but they are not inevitable, nor are they guaranteed on a permanent basis. Generations in the First and Second World Wars fought and often died to preserve those rights and freedoms. That should never be forgotten.
I would encourage the people of Hartlepool to show their respect at several ceremonies this weekend.
On Saturday, at Stranton Cemetery, there will be a ceremony close to the War memorial at the Tanfield Road end of the site. Children will have an opportunity to take part in the service and lay a poppy. Some of those lying in the military part of the cemetery having sacrificed their lives are not much older than those now laying the poppies, and so it always an emotional and poignant service. I would encourage you to be there by 10.40 at the latest.
On Sunday, a service will take place at the War Memorial in the town centre, with another at the Headland Memorial in Redheugh Gardens. A parade will be led in the town centre by the Sea Cadets. On the Headland, a similar parade will take place led by the Boys’ Brigade.
These are hugely important events, to me personally, to my family and to the town. Attendance rises every year as this country becomes even more grateful to the sacrifices by our fellow citizens in acts of war. I know that the town of Hartlepool, as one, will take the moment afforded through Remembrance Sunday, to pause, reflect and remember them.