The bravery of the D-Day heroes lives on through Britain’s 2.2 million veterans today

The Bayeux War Cemetery
The Bayeux War Cemetery - Owen Cooban/PA

As the UK prepares to honour the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, we can never forget the sacrifice that many service men and women made on that day – and throughout the Second World War – for our freedom.

It was a privilege to have met Peter Kent – a veteran who fought on that fateful day 80 years ago – at a torch lighting ceremony for our D-Day anniversary celebrations this year. Indeed, more than 25,000 Commonwealth war graves will be lit up throughout the year, in recognition of the lives lost in the landings.

Their bravery lives on through the 2.2 million veterans across the UK – an incredible group of people who I am proud to represent and speak up for in Cabinet. My mission for these heroes could not be clearer: I want to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran.

Since the creation of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, we have made great strides. Through Op RESTORE, we are providing more veteran-focused physical health support to improve quality of life, and Op COURAGE is ensuring that more veterans have access to bespoke mental health support.

Indeed, it is good news that veteran employment is up – with 89 per cent who engage with support employed within six months – but still too many veterans end up in jobs that don’t fully harness their unique talents and abilities.

This needs to change, and change it will under Op PROSPER, our first-of-its-kind employment initiative. This scheme will ensure that veterans can best utilise their skills within sectors that are helping to boost our economy. In fact, this week I will be hosting a summit with veterans and industry representatives, where I will share more about what I believe to be the start of a new era of veteran employment.

Of course, in this country, we take our military and security responsibilities seriously, demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s recent announcement to increase defence spending. Just like in the Second World War, Britain needs to lead the way and show that this new axis of evil cannot get away with it.

Sadly, this commitment was not matched by Sir Keir Starmer, a man lacking any principles who has no plan to tackle one of the biggest challenges of our generation.

Our nation’s security is the first and most important duty of a prime minister. What it takes is bold action, going against the grain and sticking up for what is right. We need a leader not a follower, and it can’t be trusted in the hands of a human weathervane.

Being serious about these responsibilities means we have to treat all of our military personnel with the respect and admiration they deserve, given the great risk they put themselves under. And that goes double for our veterans.

They deserve nothing but the very best from us, after they have given their all to keep us safe. So on this D-Day anniversary, let’s celebrate our military heroes – past and present – and let’s continue to do everything we can to create a brighter future for our veterans.

Johnny Mercer is the veterans’ affairs minister