An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind. Mahatma Gandhi
Today is 11/11/2011 and marks a special day, Armistice Day. Some people call it Remembrance Day, but it’s the day that the First World War ended. We remember not only the soldiers that gave their lives for us in the First World War, but soldiers who fought and are still fighting in conflicts across the world, some as young as fifteen or sixteen, entering into battles that they knew nothing about, and giving their lives for the protection of the rest of us. It’s a pretty humbling thought really, isn’t it? As a girl who grew up with both grandfathers and great grandfathers serving in the Navy, and cousins and uncles in the RAF, it’s a special day for me. I remember being a little girl when my great grandfather was still alive, and him being sat on the sofa all the time in my great grandmother’s little Victorian terraced house in the Midlands, and always being uncomfortable because of the shrapnel in his legs, from The Second World War. I also remember going to church with my granny and remembering her dad who was killed when she was five years old when his ship was attacked. Even at that age, it’s a sad thought that someone you love could feel so much pain.
“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” -Elmer Davis
Both my grandfathers are too young to have been in that war, but they served on ships across the world and have interesting stories to tell. With the Iraq unrest and more recently, Afghanistan, our forces efforts are always in our minds and touching us. My friend Dan is a soldier and despite him being a bit of a joker, I commend the bravery of boys like him who sign up for the forces. He might have called me drunk at 4am this morning to tell me he loved me and I reminded him of a penguin (don’t ask, he’s mental) and woken me up, but I can’t be cross today. It might be peaceful now, but who knows what’s round the corner? My little sister used to be in the air cadets and a guy who she knew well later became a soldier. He died a few years ago.
“I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?’” -Eve Merriam
I very rarely get really angry, but it upsets me greatly when people talk through the silence. Its two minutes of your life to show your respect to the boys who laid down their lives for our liberty; sons, husbands and fathers who left their families never to return, to protect the freedom that we take for granted these days. Without those brave men, our lives might be completely different, and it disgusts me that people can’t spare a mere one hundred and twenty seconds to show some respect to their elders. There has been a recent uproar here in the UK as FIFA (the football association) have banned the wearing of poppies by football players at games, which I think is terrible. These governing bodies need to recognise that as a country we want to pay our respects, and we wear our poppies with pride. The poppy is synonymous with the appeal as it is a flower that can grow in the most barren conditions, and this year is extra special as it marks the ninetieth year of the appeal.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” -Cynthia Ozick
I have had the chance to visit Ypres and see the trenches for myself, and it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. With a tour guide, we walked the tunnels that the soldiers lived in and stood on No Man’s Land; the grass between the soldiers and the enemy where bullets and grenades would have flown. We stood in the trenches and imagined the fear of the boys fighting for our protection, side by side not knowing if they would see the sun rise the following day. It was a chilling and sombre day, and a surreal experience to stand in silence with strangers, looking at row upon row of white crosses, marking the resting place of sons and fathers.
I wear my poppy with pride. Do you?