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A message from…
Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders CBE DSO

Search for the word “love” in a book of military quotations, and you will come up empty handed. There’s quite a lot about “morale”, but not much on love. But in my 31 years’ experience of soldiering, a fair bit of that being taken to my limits in training and on operations, I have found that soldiers inspire and give profound love and loyalty to each other. I still feel deep love for the soldiers and officers I have been lucky enough to serve with.

Lt Gen Patrick Sanders CBE DSOMilitary life does this because we are so utterly dependent on others, which is what makes it such a fulfilling and addictive vocation. The bonds we forge in combat or in demanding training are unbreakable. They last a lifetime. In no other human endeavour can you see the tolerance, compassion, courage, self-sacrifice, humour, and intense love that exists within a group of soldiers. Under fire; no one cares if someone is black or white, gay or straight, because they value the individual for who he or she is, what he or she can do, and because they are so utterly dependent on him or her.

This is why I stayed in the Army for so long. I cannot imagine another profession where I could share this love and fellowship with such different and extraordinary people. But this experience is not universal or constant, as we all know. Away from the cauldron of operations or training, lazy or ingrained prejudice remains, ranging from outright bullying and discrimination, to the sort of casual but hurtful remark that refers to ice cream as ‘gay’.

This sort of divisive behaviour is thankfully rarer. Thanks to the example, persuasion and compulsion of countless good men and women, not least my remarkable predecessor, Lieutenant General Sir James Everard, being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in the British Army is no longer an issue – almost.

I want to remove that ‘almost’. As Commander Field Army, I will make sure that everyone understands that diverse teams are stronger and more effective than homogeneous teams; that only if individuals are free to be themselves can we release the genie of their potential, for the greater good. I want us to live all the values and standards that define us: selfless commitment, courage, discipline, integrity, loyalty and respect for others. These qualities I saw daily in dusty compounds in Afghanistan, and in my Battle Group in Basra, should extend everywhere until we have expunged the last dregs of prejudice and intolerance. I don’t want more for the LGBT community – I just want the same that any soldier has the right to expect: respect.

I’m proud to be the Army’s LGBT champion and a straight ally. I celebrate your service as LGBT members of the Army and I cheer the fact that we are recognised as a top 100 LGBT employer. But it’s not enough yet: I give you my word I will fight for you and stand alongside you.

Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders CBE DSO
Commander Field Army & Army LGBT Champion

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