Ten years after touching down in Afghanistan, Army veteran Sally Orange walked through the doors of an NHS Nightingale hospital after seeing an opportunity to serve her country again.
After 22 years’ service in the military, Ms Orange said it was a “really easy decision” to join the national coronavirus fight.
Speaking to the PA news agency to mark Armed Forces Day, the Royal Army Medical Corps veteran said: “I think it’s probably the military ethos to think ‘great, I have got an opportunity to serve my country again’.
“It was a pleasure and an honour to be able to play a role in that collective national effort.
“It really did bring out the best in people.”
Ms Orange, a retired Army major and physiotherapy officer now living in Salisbury, Wiltshire, played a key role at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan where she was responsible for treating seriously injured personnel.
Back on the front line once again at the NHS Nightingale hospital in London, her role was rehabilitating those who had contracted the virus, allowing them to return home after a lengthy stay in hospital.
The armed forces have played a key role throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in what has become the biggest ever homeland military operation in peacetime, with more than 5,000 personnel involved.
But research from SSAFA, the armed forces charity, suggests that 40% of the British public were unaware that the armed forces have supported in the fight against Covid-19, with 53% surveyed not knowing the armed forces helped with the UK’s vaccinations.
“I don’t think it’s a case of the public not being grateful and not supporting them, I think it’s almost in the ethos of the military to just get on with the job and not herald that they are doing it,” Ms Orange, 47, said.
“I think it’s just the humility of the armed forces that has led to the British public not really being aware of it.”
However with Armed Forces Day taking place on Saturday, Ms Orange said “a thank you and a recognition goes a long way”.
As well as her 22-year career in the Army, she has represented the UK in the Invictus Games, claiming a medal in cycling and is also an ambassador for several charities.
Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO at SSAFA, said: “The armed forces have worked tirelessly to support the country in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, including supporting the NHS and the Government with the nationwide vaccination rollout, testing and much more.
“Hence the findings from our survey, highlighting the lack of understanding of the contribution of the armed forces, are a surprise to us at SSAFA.
“Therefore it is appropriate that, for Armed Forces Day 2021, SSAFA and other organisations highlight the outstanding work of those in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force, alongside other key workers, who have all put themselves on the front line in the fight against Covid-19. That is the essence of service, something that makes our armed forces so special.”
In 2020, SSAFA supported more than 79,000 people in need, including veterans and their families.
For more information visit: www.ssafa.org.uk