Mendip Matters - 14th June 2022

We all have moments in our lives when the reality of a situation really hits home.

In 2010 I was invited to watch the ceremonial lowering of the flag at dusk on an army base packed with animated young soldiers just before they embarked on another Afghan tour. It was a moving ceremony, not least because as I looked around I reflected on the fact that many might not come home, or would do so with life-changing physical injuries or mental trauma. 

It was in that moment that war became very real to me, as did the overwhelming belief that we need to use all our energies and resources to find other ways to resolve our differences. 

During the months that followed that army base visit, the news reports about casualties kept coming. I, like many, watched the TV transfixed as a sombre parade of coffins in hearses weaved their way through the streets of (the now-named) Royal Wootton Bassett. Every single year since 1945, bar one, the UK has lost soldiers somewhere in the world. The military are part of our story and heritage, our beliefs and responsibilities.

This topic has very much been on my mind lately, with Armed Forces Day fast approaching and the Falklands 40 campaign. Mendip will raise a flag to honour those who served in conflicts, past and present. But your Council does far more than just flag waving.

Mendip recognises that their service will have equipped our brave men and women with many practical skills – but it does not always equip them with administrative and literary skills needed to satisfy some of today’s initial employment application questionnaires and procedures. This Council ensures proper advice and support is made available, and we give all former service personnel a guaranteed interview for any Council vacancy applied for, where they meet the essential criteria of the position. We encourage our partner organisations and the wider Mendip business community, to do likewise.

Mendip has signed-up to the Somerset Armed Forces Community Covenant, which brings together charities, local authorities, other public sector organisations, businesses, communities, individuals and the military in a pledge of support between local residents and the Armed Forces community. You can read more about it here:

Mendip led the Home-finder Somerset initiative which ensures service families leaving the Armed Forces and seeking housing, are not disadvantaged. We provide concessions for war widows and those injured or disabled through serving in the Forces, when we calculate entitlement to financial support such as housing benefit Council Tax and crisis grants.

Mendip has its own Armed Forces Champion to promote engagement - Cllr Damon Hooton, who served in the armed forces for 22 years, does an admirable job. He’s passionate about the role and I know he takes his responsibilities very seriously. Look out for him on our social media channels.

We can all make sacrifices and do something to ease the pain and loss of war. Take the Ukraine conflict, with so many British people welcoming refugees into our communities and our homes. These refugees have left everything behind; relatives, friends, and their land. Our understanding and tolerance is needed. 

And to those fathers stationed in conflict zones, many of whom had never held a gun until March this year, I salute you this Father’s Day weekend, and wish you a swift return into the arms of your loved ones.

Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council

Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].

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