Last week marked Armed Forces Day and Armed Forces Week.

I was pleased to join councillors and former councillors at the Council House in Dudley for the ceremonial raising of the Armed Forces Day flag at the start of the week, and really encouraged to see thousands of people turn out at Himley Hall on Sunday to show their support for our Armed Forces. It was also lovely to join the Royal British Legion and a selection of World War II vehicles at Morrisons in Kingswinford on Saturday to help raise money for the Legion’s work to support armed forces veterans and their families.

This year’s Armed Forces Day celebrations were particularly poignant coming just over a week after the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands, which marked the end of a ten-week long conflict where Britain sent her troops, ships, planes and firepower to the other side of the world to help free the long-established island population from the invading Argentinians.

It was a privilege to be able to join representatives of the armed forces and of the Falkland Islands for a service in London to commemorate the end of the war, and all of those who were lost fighting for Falkland Islanders’ right to choose their own future.

Just as Argentina underestimated the will of the Falklanders to stay British in 1982, and the determination of British forces under Margaret Thatcher, our nation’s leader at the time, to stand up for the right of the people on the islands to be the ones who made that decision – today, Russia has underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people and the determination of their leader to fight for the same for Ukraine in 2022.

While there has been no major war in Europe since the 1940s, it is clearly as important as ever that we are ready to defend what we believe in – and that, actually, being ready to defend against an aggressor is nearly always the best way to deter them in the first place.

“In all my years in uniform, I haven’t known such a clear threat to the principles of sovereignty and democracy, and the freedom to live without fear of violence”.

That’s what General Sir Patrick Sanders, the new Chief of the General Staff, said in a speech at an Army conference in London earlier this week.

Of course, his comments are on the back of Russia’s continued war against Ukraine, which, just this week, saw a sickening strike by Russian forces against a Ukrainian shopping centre which had more than 1000 civilians in it at the time.

Britain has led on ensuring that all freedom-loving nations come together to support Ukraine and ensure that Russia’s aggression does not pay. Other European nations are now beginning to follow our example with further commitments from leaders this week at the G7 and NATO gatherings.

In Britain we know the value of peace; it is important that we never forget what we owe to those who are brave enough to defend it.