SATURDAY is Armed Forces Day and I hope that as many of you as possible will show our respect and debt of gratitude to our Armed Forces.
Remembrance Sunday is a time for reflection and solemnity, commemorating those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom and the future of our country.
Armed Forces Day is somewhat different: it is a day of celebration, rather than solemnity, recognising and cherishing the work that the present Armed Forces in the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force do in the most dangerous situations possible to keep us and our country safe.
Hartlepool, like many other towns and villages around the country, are holding services to show that respect and gratitude.
This Saturday, Armed Forces Day participants will gather at the car park near the Portofino restaurant at the Marina.
There will be a parade and march before a short service that is scheduled to begin at 10.50am at the Maritime Experience Car Park.
I believe that Armed Forces Day should be an optimistic event looking at the present and future.
But, inevitably, given this year, there will be an element of looking back over our country’s recent history.
A couple of weeks ago, the Allies commemorated the 70th anniversary of D Day.
The sacrifices of that generation for the common good of our country are truly humbling.
The remarks made by President Obama at the event at Normandy are very moving: “We tell this story for the old soldiers who pull themselves a little straighter today to salute brothers who never made it home.
“We tell the story for the daughter who clutches a faded photo of her father, forever young; for the child who runs his fingers over colorful ribbons he knows signify something of great consequence, even if he doesn’t yet fully understand why.... By daybreak, blood soaked the water, bombs broke the sky.
“Thousands of paratroopers had dropped into the wrong landing sites; thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand.
“Entire companies’ worth of men fell in minutes. “Hell’s Beach” had earned its name.”
Those commemorations and services in northern France earlier this month were probably the last time that veterans and participants in the landings will be together to remember and to commemorate.
The passage of time means that living memories turn into written history.
That has already happened with the other momentous anniversary this year – the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
It is on Armed Forces Day – this Saturday – that a hundred years ago the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.
This prompted a train of events that led, a little over six weeks later, for Britain to declare war on Germany.
This week Parliament held a debate to discuss the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.
I spoke in the debate to remind the House of Commons that Hartlepool had a special place in the First World War, namely the Bombardment, that claimed the lives of many innocent civilians in our town.
With one eye on the past, I hope you will respect the present and future and show your debt of gratitude to the Armed Forces this coming Saturday.
Let Hartlepool show our Armed Forces that we are very proud of them.