The 11th of November is upon us once more and red poppies are bursting out from black coats as they move about on autumn sidewalks. On Remembrance Day (formerly Armistice Day) not everyone will be wearing a poppy, of course, but many will. This is a time of year when we pay tribute to warriors, past and present, their families and all the other men and women behind the scenes, at home and on foreign fields.
For many however, the idea of war seems remote, a thing of the past, of history. “It’s something that happens far away.” But let me tell you, war is not relegated to the ancient world, to the battle fields of Thermopylae,
Salamis or Gaugamela. Mars has left his bloody mark on every stage
of human history to our present day and, as a result, sacrifice, pain and loss
have resonated across time. One cannot always agree with the motives for war
but, unless we learn from the past, the bloody cycle of battle will continue to
Millions of men, women and children have laid down their lives over the ages, as combatants or victims.
We would do well to remember them.
I was young when my grandparents passed away and so, did not have a chance to ask about what it was like fighting alongside General Allenby or T.E. Lawrence. I would have liked to know what it was like at sea on a merchant navy ship with German U-boats haunting the depths or how Greek resistance fighters kept faith in the mountains of a land I have only ever known as a sunny holiday destination.
This week I have been reading to my own kids about Remembrance Day and the World Wars. Kids can be quite astute, resilient I find, when it comes to horrible things. But there are also lessons to be learned that can be found not just in fiction. Lessons about honour, courage and sacrifice, beliefs, right and wrong. We read the poem In Flanders Fields and they knew is wasn’t all about flowers. The poem reminds us about sacrifice, that there is beauty in the world, things worth fighting for, be it freedom, goodness or something as simple as a field of red flowers.
This day, of all days, forget about politicians and politics. Instead remember the troops and support personnel, past and present, their families, their lovers, all of them. They are not the ones who decided that war should be waged and that they should be sent to die on foreign soil.
Think of those poor people in war-torn regions who, as I write this, hunker down in a corner of their home, hoping that the next bomb blast does not destroy all they know and love. It is easy to be complacent sitting in our safe homes or behind our desk in a boring office. ‘Lest we forget’ is very relevant today.
So, wear your poppy with memory and gratitude this day, this month. Thank the veteran who is standing by the subway entrance selling little red flowers, for though they may not appear so, they have likely been to hell and back all so that we can walk safely down a quiet sidewalk.