I FOUND myself at Atlanta airport earlier this year with a group of American soldiers on their way back home from active service in the Middle East (don’t think it wise to be more specific) when the airport made an announcement.

‘All military personnel and retired military personnel with ID are invited to use our Hospitality Lounge.’ I asked a supervisor if this group of soldiers were special in some way.

“No, it’s an open offer to all members of the armed forces at any time. It’s our way of showing our appreciation for their service.”

I thought it a rather nice gesture but not one I’ve ever heard in any UK airport.

When I boarded my plane a number of these soldiers were on my flight and as they entered the cabin all seated passengers stood and applauded.

It contrasted dramatically with the shoddy way we appear to treat our service personnel. I don’t recall any spontaneous public show of appreciation for anyone in uniform and I certainly have never witnessed any offer of UK airport hospitality.

The stories of British wounded soldiers returning home from conflict zones waiting months for any form of therapy and military housing being in appalling condition and in dire need of repair are all too frequent.

It appears UK Government appreciation is reserved for high-profile occasions where politicians can be seen on TV ‘supporting’ the troops. Meanwhile day-to-day practical help is thin on the ground.

It behoves us all to ensure that those prepared to put their lives at risk to keep us safe are treated with the respect they deserve.

A little public appreciation would be welcome and damn sight more action from Westminster for military families in need might help to dispel the image of lions being lead by donkeys.