As Remembrance Day is upon us I watch the news & see some wonderful tributes by young people who actually try to understand what Remembrance Day is really about. These wonderful people bandy about terms such as “fallen heroes” and “ultimate sacrifice”. I have to wonder, do they, or any of us, really understand what Remembrance Day is really about? Those who died did not die the Hollywood death of John Wayne & other heroes of the big screen. Most of those who died were young people, in their late teens, twenties & the odd few in their thirties. By my 58 year standards, that is young. Did they remain stoic until the end? Not likely. They were likely terrified, fearing and fighting the Death that was overtaking them. Flashing thoughts of their wives, husbands, children, parents, siblings – the myriad of people that they are going to miss, while Death stalked them with a finality as certain as any finality can ever be. Terrified because they’ve seen their buddies maimed, or are missing parts themselves. There is no turning back from Death and unless you have tremendous faith, it is no doubt terrifying. Death in war is rarely heroic, and even more rarely, dignified.
But can the ones who died can be the lucky ones? The ones left at home are every bit the heroes as those who died. They have seen their loved ones, their children, their mothers, their fathers, go off to put themselves in harm’s way to defend our way of life. They don’t have the benefit of the sudden quiet at the end of that journey into Death. They are left behind to feel their hearts torn asunder, shredded by grief, by the loss of one who is dear to them. Ones who they missed as soon as they walked out the door, but miss even more so knowing that now they will never return to them. They have to endure the daily struggle of knowing they will never again hear that voice, feel that touch, share that laugh or that tear. If that doesn’t make them heroes, then there are no heroes.
And then there are our soldiers who did not die. They may have come home, but many of them have left a part of their souls behind them. Parts of them died with their deeds and are buried on a plain, or under rocks on a barren mountain somewhere most of us will never see. The things they have witnessed other humans doing to other humans? The things they have been called upon to do to other humans? Anyone who has ever lined up the rear sight with the fore sight then ultimately with a living, breathing, target that they know has a mate, children, knows that with one squeeze of the trigger all of that ends for that ‘target’ and for all that the ‘target’ is, was or ever will be. When the bullet leaves that chamber, it takes with you a large part of your humanity because you will never be the same. If you’ve never had that experience or any of the other experiences that our soldiers see, hear and feel, then you are blessed. But in the same breath you can never really understand what that returning soldier is going through. You have not earned the right to sit in judgement on that soldier. But these soldiers, these guardians of our lives and our life, have earned the right of your support, your honour, and above all, your respect.
So on this Remembrance Day 2012, wear your Poppy, honour our fallen and crippled heroes – all of them both in and out of uniform. And when you’ve done all that and the day is behind you, not only should you continue to Remember, but now you should take up the fight for them. Help them all to get them the benefits and pay that is commensurate with their sacrifice, which I have to say, is a damned sight higher sacrifice than anything, absolutely anything, any of our over paid, over benefitted politicians and their petty bureaucrats have earned.