Like so many of you the 11th of November and Remembrance Sunday means so much to me.
Knowing so many brave service men and women have been injured or made the supreme sacrifice and given their lives to make us safe is humbling but making the decision which puts them in harm’s way is the most difficult I make as an MP.
As a legislator I have to vote on whether our forces go to war, whether they fly to protect others or whether they patrol the seas against protagonists, terrorists or pirates in our name.
Since becoming an MP in 2010 I have had to vote a number of times on these issues and have always listened to the debates all the way through before making up my mind. None of those decisions have been easy, how can they be when your vote sends men and women into dangerous situations.
In South Derbyshire we have known tragedy befall our fighting servicemen, too many, but this Remembrance weekend it was my honour to be invited to join the family and friends of the late Corporal Russell Aston. Russell fought so bravely but died so horribly in an ambush during protests in Al Majar al-Kabir, near Basra, Southern Iraq in 2003. One of his comrades and friend Eben Tatem, together with Chris Powell and others, organised a TAB, from Alrewas Arboretum, via Coton-in-the-Elms, to the War Memorial in Burton. A TAB is a march/run carrying a full load on their backs. This was for the fittest to show their respect for a fallen comrade.
I joined Glenice and Mike Aston, Russell's parents, and friends at Coton-in-the-Elms Church when the TAB arrived at Midday. After a warming cuppa in the soft rain, the clouds blew away and Eben, Chris and comrades fell in for a moving ceremony with words remembering their lost friend Russ. The Vicar Janet Turville blessed them on their way and they left to TAB the final leg to Burton.
I was grateful to Vicar Janet as I had been asked to say a few words but the emotion of the ceremony and the obvious love they felt for their lost friend was too much for me, all I could do was stand there with tears running down my face. Her blessing was wonderful. So we left the memorial stone for Russ in Coton and followed the Team to Burton.
Almost half an hour early the whole Team arrived at Burton Memorial by the College. To prove a point, I am sure, they had run some of the way and arrived exhausted but exhilarated, pushing themselves physically to honour their friend.
It was an honour to congratulate them and hand over a memorial coin. At this point I was composed enough to say a few words about how proud I was of them, to be the MP to represent such caring people, people who put lives on the line to keep us safe. The event also raised many hundreds of pounds for UK Homes for Heroes, a specialist charity funding homes for ex-servicemen.
On Sunday I was able to share in the pride of fellow residents at the services in Swadlincote and later in Smisby, it was a privilege to be there.
Remembrance weekend has always been special for me, my prize possession is my Grandfathers Bible from when he was a prisoner of war in the First World War. I feel we should always do everything we can to try not to go to war, but if we have to we must support our armed forces who fight in our name for our safety. We must always remember them.
(This article was originally written for the Burton Mail).