The most profound experience I had as an RAF officer was serving with the United States Air Force. I was posted to the Pentagon, but I also served alongside the men and women of the USA on many occasions.
The picture is of a pennant American colleagues bought for me from my time with them in Kabul. We lag behind the US in terms of how we respect our serving personnel and veterans.
I recall being stopped in the street in Washington and being thanked for my service. I recall going to pay for breakfast in Atlanta Airport only to be told that the bill had been settled by a stranger I will never meet. That was because I was wearing uniform (and a foreign one at that).
Recently I spoke with the US owner of a British football club on a range of issues to help UK veterans. Not once did he seek to work out where the profit was or what was in it for him. He spoke of freedom and how we all owe a debt to those who serve. Every word was sincere.
As a society, it is time we reviewed our relationship with those who serve – and have served – the cause of freedom. No more token gestures. I see far too much lip service and people talking a good game. I see fakeness and, far, far worse, I see downright hypocrisy.
I’m not fooled because I have seen a society that does it well – naturally – and is not ashamed to do so. We might never catch up, but I am pleased that I have first-hand experience of the US example to follow.
Allan Steele WS
Liberal Party Défense Spokesperson