As we approach Remembrance Sunday and the 11th November I am increasingly saddened by the number of people I see around and about not wearing Poppies. This includes on television and in many public environments.
For me the wearing of a poppy is a sign of remembrance for the hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth service men and women who have laid down their lives for their country or who have been wounded and harmed fighting for us. I do not want to establish a ‘poppy police’ in any way but I do want to see poppies extensively warn as an act of free will, of respect, honor and of remembrance.
Wearing a poppy does not glorify war as some claim, it is in fact exactly the opposite. Remembering the fallen and the wounded is in many ways the best antidote to the glorification of war as it holds true the stark reality and the human cost of conflict.
What ever your perspective on war one thing we should never do is judge the people who fought and died for us. Members of our armed forces both current and past carry out the will of our elected representatives. They have little choice in what they do and certainly they do not get to choose which wars to fight and die in.
There is still a debate raging over the ‘just’ cause of the First World War and the ‘dangers’ of commemorating this conflict. To those who perpetuate this argument I say again that the act of Remembrance is all about honoring our fallen not the merits of any particular conflict.
Both the First and Second World Wars resulted in huge numbers of British and Commonwealth casualties, approximately 1,700,000 dead with many wounded and permanently scarred. These numbers are so vast it is hard to comprehend. There are also the numerous conflicts we have sent our service personnel to fight in since May 1945 with all the resultant casualties including the recent and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We must never forget that these ‘numbers’ represent ordinary men and women, brothers, fathers, sisters, daughters and sons. The loss for their families was and is heart breaking and devastating as it should be for all of us.I for one will be eternally grateful for their sacrifice and I would argue that we as a nation, united, should be too.
I have done my best to impart this to my three young children. My eldest daughter (now 10) wears my late father’s World War 2 campaign medals on Remembrance Sunday to the wreath laying at our local war memorial. She has done so since she was 5. I want all my children and the children of our nation irrespective of their background to grow up remembering, an ambition I am struggling to see fulfilled.
By all means question the rights and wrongs of armed conflict: this is a hard won privilege that we take all too easily for granted living in a thriving democracy. Feel free to criticise those politicians who through the ages have committed our soldiers, sailors and airmen into harm’s way. However please, please do not forget or question the fallen or their sacrifice and always wear your poppy with pride.