I explained to him that the festival, with the music, and the parades was not being shown until the Saturday evening, and I promised him I would make sure he had his television on at the right time, and on the right channel so he could watch it the next night. In my job we are not supposed to make promises, well definitely not ones we are not going to be able to keep, but I was damned adamant I would keep this one. I wrote on the board for all staff, for the next day, and as it happened, I was there the next day anyway.
So, I set him up to watch it. I ended up working late anyway that night, so halfway through the programme, I slipped into his room, and sat with him for 20 minutes. In the chair next to him, I sat, with my poppy on, he in his chair with his poppy on. And he put his hand over mine. He told me another story.
We talked a little more, about the war. And I was able to simply say ‘thank you Mr P- for your contribution’. There didn’t need to be anything else said. And you know what he said back ‘Your Welcome’.
The whole experience with this veteran left me in tears literally. Partly because of his emotion, partly because of the whole remembrance thing, the whole concept of people fighting, people dying, for freedom. For me. People gave their today so I could have THIS day. And because I have never been in the presence of such an emotional elderly person, at this time, and been able to say Thank you.
So, that was Fri/Sat night … but today its Wednesday. Remembrance Day. The 11th day, of the 11th month. And so, at the 11th hour, today, I walked into town, to stand with over 200 other people at our local memorial/cenotaph. I bumped into a couple of people I know, and so together we stood. And 11am exact an old solder, in his attire, with his medals played ‘the last post’. Watching these veterans with their flags, hearing the last post, and seeing young men and woman who are currently serve standing to attention was again emotional. As was seeing over 200 people go silent. And know right behind me was the main shopping centre/area of our town, and also knowing that that had gone silent. The main walkway, which is always full of hustle, people laughing, talking, on phones, children, cars near the car park. For those 2 minutes, it was silent. It was pure SILENCE.
And in those two minutes we/ I remembered. Remembered the brave men and woman who went out into the line of fire. Who went out to serve our country. To serve the people of our country. In previous years, I have remembered the wars. And the elderly people who fought in them. But this year, as a little tear fell, and yes I am not embarrassed to admit it did, I thought of those people, my belated and beloved grandparents who were both involved. But I was also thinking of those who are out there serving now. Those people in the forces now. People who are dying NOW.
Remembrance Day is no longer just about then … it is about then and NOW too.
I would like to point out, that by writing this blog, I am not making a political statement. I am not, and do not want to do that. In fact, on this day, no political statement needs to be made. This isn’t about agreeing or not agreeing with the war. Or the wars.
this is about, regardless of our views and opinions remembering and giving respect to those brave people. Bravery I am not so sure I could possess.
I guess, for me, also, as I grow older, and become more aware of history, it all becomes more poignant, maybe because I grew up with a military background. Both my parents are now retired from service, but they both served.
As a child, my early memories are of living in family quarters, housing estates with wires round, and gates to go through with ID cards. My later childhood memories, especially those of visiting my father, especially when he lived on base was of security and such things. At the time, , when you are young, you don’t really know so much. You just know ‘Dad’ goes away for long periods of time, you just know that he is off doing something but you never potentially realise exactly what or how potentially dangerous it could be.
I am lucky though, I have my parents. Some children grow up not knowing their mother, or their father.
After the ceremony, this morning, I went to pick a few bits, and then walked back through the memorial gardens. People had disintegrated. So I was able to walk right up to the memorial. A couple of RAF guys were loitering, chatting, but it had gone pretty quiet. Looking at the poppy wreaths, I again remembered the service my grandparents did, my parents, friends and family I know, and all the other people who have made sacrifices, and for many the ultimate sacrifice.
I took off my little poppy, which I have been wearing all week, and laid it on the stone, among all the big tributes. Small in comparison …
But it was my way of showing respect … remembering … and saying ‘thankyou’.