THE crisp air and silence casts our minds to times past. As the bugle sounds and the poppy petals fall, we remember.

We remember through the stories told, through images shown, through the poetry said and songs sung of days we did not live but through which we claim our freedoms in the wake of fallen comrades.

For them, their mission was to defend our rights and advance our liberty, to suppress ideologies that stole ours, and to provide a shield to protect those back home. Young men and women gave their hope and their all; we will remember them.

Not some historical event, some tragic tale, some ghastly rule belonging just to an era past because history never stands still. As it advances with years, great progress has been made, but we can never ignore the way that scars reoccur as they echo the darkest episodes in history, in new places and in new ways.

Our men and women serve across the world once more; wearing the uniform and taking the oath. In far away places, their duty to serve and keep us safe means that by day and by night, they confront horrors that none of us should ever have to bear and realities that most of us struggle to even contemplate.

On the ground, in the air and at sea, our personnel work each hour of each day, doing what they have always done, to protect us and others from harm, to advance the cause of peace; and yes, still at great sacrifice and cost.

These last few months we have also witnessed a new army rise up; an army of volunteers. This new home guard has fed those in need, reached the isolated, delivered medicines and sold us our poppies. They have been #NeverMoreNeeded but also #NeverMoreInNeed of our support.

Whilst the pandemic has seen the spread of Covid-19, our society has infected us with a new wave of kindness, generosity and hope. The desire to serve others, in uniform and in communities, is the belief that between us we can imagine a better place and are prepared to make sacrifices to get there.

It has been our outstanding NHS, care and teaching staff which have inspired this belief and our call to serve in this toughest of all seasons; it has been our shop workers and transport workers who have served to get us through these times; it has been those who have continued to collect our waste, supply our energy and harvest our fields who have enabled us to live through this crisis and sustain us for the weeks ahead.

Our uniformed services, our police, firefighters, ambulance crew have served to distinction in the most challenging of circumstances.

In the 75th year of commemorating VE and VJ days, it has been the determination rooted from this time that has caused us to strive to become a stronger, better society; it has been this resolve that has driven us to make our communities more caring and compassionate places to live.

Covid-19 has most certainly challenged this and challenged us. A new kind of battle, akin to that of Spanish Flu which stole so many lives in the midst of WW1. Yet as our nation rises again to serve our need, it has been joined by our Armed Forces distributing food, setting up testing stations and reaching out into neighbourhoods.

As York has witnessed during the floods, it is our Armed Forces which have provided both boots on the ground to resolve immediate crises and it is their strategic planners who have found the solutions.

This year, we will pay our respects in different ways as we cannot gather to mark Armistice Day. As we reflect on the cost and the sacrifice of the worst periods in history, we can renew our hope, that around the world and here at home, it is our Armed Forces that continue to serve and strive for that better, united world we all seek to see.