Remembrance Sunday 2013 - Remember the People

November is a cold and dreary month for people living in the UK.  Sensible people have already at least started their Christmas shopping, and there are always the Christmas light switch-ons to look forward to.  

But, most importantly of all, November marks Armistice Day, which commemorates the end of the First World War, and Remembrance Sunday, which is the day reserved to remember the fallen.  November 11th and the second Sunday of the month (sometimes this can be the same day) is pretty easy to remember, but  it would be difficult to forget when it is heralded with little paper poppies pinned to the chest of everyone on the television.  People not on television will start wearing poppies shortly after, some of  which are fancier than the traditional paper poppy.

Personally I always dutifully buy my poppy after Halloween (a holiday I don't personally celebrate) and then spend the next eleven days trying not to lose the wretched thing before the 11th!  It's usually a good idea to get a spare, just in case.  It's the flimsiness of the paper poppy that makes people buy those nice knitted ones, and the poppy appeal has acknowledged a popular trend and produced some wristbands.  However, I always prefer to buy a traditional poppy every year.  Each to their own, I suppose.

But besides the purchasing of an insubstantial, easy to lose paper flower, does this time of remembrance really mean anything?  The answer is that of course it does.  There is a lot of ceremony surrounding the remembrance services, which might seem to some to be excessive, possibly even pompous.  On the BBC this morning we saw the royal family at the Cenotaph.  Followed by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and other political dignitaries from the UK and worldwide, they lay beautiful wreaths - some scarlet, some multi-coloured - at the foot of the monument.  A lot of pomp and ceremony, but for what?

Remembrance Sunday is not a celebration by any stretch of the imagination.  It is a day when we mourn and remember the fallen soldiers who fought, no longer just in the First and Second World Wars, but in any wars.  Some people will not have bought a poppy this year, may not have done so for years, which is their choice.  Imagine living in a time and place where not wearing a poppy resulted in imprisonment, or worse forms of punishment?  Thankfully, we don't.

Remembrance Sunday is also for the soldiers who survived, and the families of those who didn't.  I can't imagine what it must be like for those old veterans who lost family and friends they had fought alongside.  In these more modern times, we find a new generation of soldiers who served in the middle east who will take the old veterans place in fifty years time.  War, it would seem, is reluctant to go away.

War is an evil word, for an evil thing.  It devastates countries, and tears families apart.  It leaves children without parents, and parents without children, and sends a generation of young people far from home, with many never to return.  War is the creation of governments, mad monarchies and regimes, even religions, created for good reasons and bad.  But the price is always a human one.

Pretty much everybody will tell you they hate war.  It goes without saying, but should that hatred be extended to the soldiers?  No doubt anybody reading this will know about some anti-soldier incidents that have happened over the last few years.  But if people wish to do that, why can't we also turn our hated to the companies who create the weapons, or the tanks, or the other things that enable governments to start a war, making a profit along the way?

As long as there have been wars, there have been soldiers to fight them.  This does not mean that each and every one of them is an evil monster itching to slaughter anything that moves.  These are men and women who have either chosen, or been conscripted, to take up arms.  On a battlefield, most of the people - on both sides - have one wish: to protect their homes, families and way of life.  I say most, because every army has its darker sides.  Some people become that way after the environment affects them, others are just genuinely nasty pieces of work, but they are found in every army, regardless of country, circumstance or religion.  As much as I feel a genuinely venomous hatred towards war, I find it impossible to extend that hate towards the men and women who are simply doing their jobs!  I have been fortunate and not lost any loved ones to war, so perhaps I would feel differently if I had.  But without wars to fight, there would be no soldiers, so perhaps we need to find where the blame really lies.

Once we had finished watching the Remembrance Service this morning, my husband remarked that at least one of his great grandfathers had fought in the First World War.  To me that hit the nail on the head.  The two World Wars alone were so devastating, that if you didn't lose a loved one, you'll know someone who did.  Anyone who has ever attended a Remembrance day service, and heard the names of the fallen from that parish alone being read out, know that the list is far too long.  So many sons and brothers - and daughters and sisters who were aiding the war effort - went away and never came back.  Some families never even found out where their loved ones died, and that is perhaps the saddest tragedy.  Too many children grew up without their fathers.  Some never even got the chance to meet them.

A popular phrase we hear at this time of year is Lest we forget...  It's understandable that people would want to, but until we can guarantee that losses of this scale will never happen again, we cannot.

I would like to apologise to the readers of my blog for this serious and somewhat preachy update, but I feel blessed to live in a time of relative peace.  I know that the only way that my loved ones, or even I, will end up in the army is through choice, and I hope that my children and grandchildren to come will be able to say the same.  If that means buying a poppy every November to commemorate the sacrifices made for me, I can live with that easily.

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