As we pause this week to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we should try and remember the reasons why we recognise this day. We should ensure it doesn’t become a politically correct ‘box ticking’ day where we feel obliged to wear a poppy or we use remembrance day as a tool to promote ourselves or for commercial gain. Buying and wearing a poppy is a great way of contributing financially to the Royal British Legion, but it is equally important to actually take the time to think about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Whatever your views on individual conflicts and their politics, the men and women of our Armed Forces have no choice which conflicts they fight in - they go and fight because they are ordered to go and fight. The poppy is not a symbol of war glory and it is not a sign of your approval or any particular conflict, but it is an important tool in the complicated process of our long term safety and security in our country. If you don’t approve of certain conflicts then fine, but don’t not approve of the concept of brave men and women who are prepared to protect us from danger - to protect us from terrorists blowing up our children in our streets, or to protect us from fires and floods when called to do so, or to protect us from invasion by an evil occupying force by being an important deterrant.
This year marks 100 years since the armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, marking the end of the First World War. This signing at Compiègne in France took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning - the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.
Whilst remembrance day will continue to be recognised in our country, it is anticipated that the horrors of the First World War will start to be slowly erased from the minds of future generations as the next 100 years are lived out. Whilst that is a normal process and one which is probably necessary in order to move forward in history, we should never forget the ferocity of the First World War. It was a war fought by civilians who had received very little training as most of the professional army of the day were killed in the early stages of the conflict. Normal everyday men signed up and went to the battlefields to fight for our country with so many killed or maimed. We have to ask whether as individuals, if we would make that sacrifice again today, should it be required? For those who have never served in the military, please try and imagine what it might be like to leave your family, your home, your job, your hobbies and your friends behind and go overseas to fight in a war which may result in you never coming home.
Westacre have a strong military connection with over 90% of our personnel having served or still serving in the Armed Forces. Many of our personnel will be taking the time to remember friends and colleagues who have died during active service in modern conflicts such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, the Balkans and as part of the Global War on Terror. Remembering those who you knew is easy and that process occurs all throughout the year, not just on Remembrance Day, but we should try and give our thoughts and prayers to those who we didn’t know - to the parents grieving for their children killed in battle or for kids who will grow up without a mum or dad.
The term ‘fighting’ is associated with war and conflict so we often assume this is a soldier firing his gun at the enemy. But the concept of fighting a war is far more than just infantry soldiers in close combat. The fighting process might involved a medic who is fighting to save the life of someone who is injured (friend or foe), or a truck driver who is fighting to get crucial supplies to the front line, or a helicopter pilot who is fighting to drop off troops for their next mission. Just being in a war zone is dangerous and many who have been killed have been done so in non-combat situations, so regardless of which fight they are fighting, the sacrifice is the same and the loss is the same.
At 1100 on the 11th November 2018, please take some time out from your busy schedule to pause and remember. It doesn’t have to be a one minute or a two minute silence, but instead, put down your phone or switch off your TV or computer and spend a good ten or twenty minutes actually thinking about those heroes who have made a sacrifice. In fact, spend the whole day with those thoughts in your mind, remembering how lucky we are to live in relative peace and to have all the life choices we have thanks to brave men and women who chose to fight.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.