Celebrations for Armed Forces Week to soldier on

Yesterday marked the start of Armed Forces Week, with residents across Babergh and Mid Suffolk being asked to share a salute in appreciation of our armed forces community.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils mark Armed Forces Week each year as part of an ongoing commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant – providing practical support to serving personnel, veterans and their families.

Plans for Babergh District Council to host this year’s celebrations on behalf of Suffolk – staging a week of events in Hadleigh, culminating in a colour parade throughout the town – have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, but the districts remain determined to pay tribute to the armed forces community.

Mark Brennan, chair of Hadleigh Branch Royal British Legion and former Army officer, said: “It’s really disappointing that celebrations couldn’t take place in Hadleigh as planned, but we must not let this stop us from marking Armed Forces Week. Please do still remember the thousands of men and women who have selflessly given years of their life to protect our country and its people. Military life is not easy and help is at hand for ex-military personnel from charities such as the Royal British Legion, who are still offering their services during Covid-19.”

The pandemic has highlighted the significant contribution of our armed forces, who have continued to provide national security, whilst also playing a vital role in supporting public services and our communities in response to Covid-19.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are urging residents to recognise this dedication, whilst remaining at home to slow the spread of the virus – by raising a salute to troops, veterans, cadets and military families – and sharing a photo or video of this on social media, using the hashtag #SaluteOurForces.

One former military family proudly saluting in Stowmarket, have first-hand experience of the sacrifices made by the armed forces community.

Jeff Bevan served in the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot for 21 years, often leaving behind wife Nikki and their five children, to attend military exercises overseas.

Nikki said: “To be honest I felt like we, as a family, all served in the military as everyone had their own share on the burden. Apart from the fact that we had stressful times when he was in the Iraq and Afghan wars, service life can take its toll due to long periods of separation. I am really proud, not only of Jeff, but our children, who have become very resilient because of this. My thoughts will always be with our brave armed forces and their families, as they continue to protect us and serve our country.”

Providing ongoing support for ex-military personnel and their families is a priority for both councils, with work on a collaborative project aiming to raise mental health awareness for those who have served in the military currently underway, and the scheme due to launch later in the year.

 John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council, said: “While planned events sadly could not take place, our council remains committed to supporting the military community. We are enormously proud of the unwavering commitment of all our service men and women, both past and present. Please join us in thinking of and thanking our armed forces for their hard work and dedication.”

And Suzie Morley, leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, added: “With one of the army’s largest UK airfields, Wattisham, in our district, I know how important Armed Forces Week is to people in Mid Suffolk. This week will help raise awareness of our military residents and the sacrifices that they and their families continue to make. I would like to thank them all for helping to keep us safe.”

Pictured above is Lieutenant Commander Jeff Bevan and his family.

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