18 Jun

This week has seen two significant military events - one marked by a national tour, the other going almost completely un-noticed by most news outlets.  June 14th was the 41st anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands. British troops reached Port Stanley and the Union Jack once again flew over the islands. It wasn't without huge cost to both sides and it was for us here in Britain, the 1st big conflict which had played out with a TV camera practically attached to the gun barrel of the troops. We watched it in our living rooms, heard reporter, Brian Hanrahan utter the now immortal phrase, "I counted them all out, and I counted them all back." and we could see the horror of the ships hit by missiles, irrupting with smoke and flame, tiny lifeboats bobbing on the dark grey sea, under clouds of black smoke, as the stricken ships slipped below the water.

I was only in my 20's at the time but the impression never left me. I also remember, in the local pub, the "old boys" - who has served in the 2nd World War - winding up the young drinkers by telling them they'd get conscripted soon, have to cut their hair, grow up and fight for their country. Most of them were horrified - "they" couldn't do the, could they? But there were a couple, who later joined up, I like to think, inspired by the courage they had seen in the Falklands War - but I'm probably wrong, it was the 80's and more than likely they couldn't get a job.

We always fly the Falklands Island flag on the 14th, and have our own minutes silence for the fallen, of both sides. But the anniversary was largely ignored by the press - it's was "only" the 41st, they'd covered the 40th, it wasn't significant. Not to them, may be, but certainly to those who served, their families and friends - they will never forget. Perhaps the 45th will be better observed. To me, it's important that we show those who served that we appreciate their actions, while they are there to see it, regardless of what number is attached to it.

The 2nd event got a great deal more coverage - and there's nothing wrong with that. We said goodbye to a great workhorse of the sky, as the C130 Hercules retired from service. Since its first flight in 1954, the Hercules has been everywhere and done just about anything. It's been to both poles, landed or airdropped military supplies everywhere from Vietnam to Afghanistan. The Hercules has dropped bombs, retrieve satellites in midair, and undertaken reconnaissance and attack ground targets with cannons. The C-130 has the longest, continuous military aircraft production run in history. 

From my childhood I delighted in seeing the huge, noisy aircraft, props whirring, seemingly skim the treetops, as they passed over, low enough to wave to the crew, who almost always waved back. Then they were usually three at a time. In recent years the number of flights dwindled, as did the aircraft and to see just one of these majestic giants was a rare sight.

This week saw the RAF Hercules fly off in to the sunset, as the aircraft was retired from service. The occasion has been well covered by the press. Past and present crews interviews, the history and characteristics of the Hercules discussed at length. Television, radio, newspapers and podcasters have been quick to mark the moment. Then 3 of the remaining aircraft undertook a day farewell tour of Britain, so we could see and hear the magnificent workhorse just once more. I was fortunate enough to see them pass over Shobdon Airfield in north Herefordshire, along with many who had served or still served, and wanted to say goodbye. And of course to take advantage of the excellent café, for breakfast, a brew and a banter. We did the Hercules proud.

I was brought up always to say "Thank you" for things, and many of us will remember being prompted by mum or dad if we forgot with, "What do you say?". I hope children are still being taught that today. The value of "Thank you" should never diminish, two small words that mean so much. This week we have said thankyou to those who served in the Falklands, and to a staple of the air force which united the services with it's flexibility. 

Next weekend sees Armed Forces Day, on Saturday 24th June. Events are being held around the country, and yes, we'll be flying a flag. But if you can't fly a flag or make it to an event, can you take a minute to say a silent, thank you, to all who have and still do serve?Lizzie Lane, Co-chair, The Forces Veterans Afloat Charitable Trust

Lizzie Lane, Co-chair, The Forces Veterans Afloat Charitable Trust

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