Today – Remembrance Day – is an important day. As well as remembering the sacrifice of those who died in wars that seem a long time ago, today we remember sacrifices in more recent wars and operations still going on today. The freedom we live in – a freedom that is often taken for granted – is ours because of those who fought for us many years ago as well as because of those who defend us at home and abroad today.
I remember my late Grandfather telling me about the First World War – leaving out the worst bits but still conveying a sense of just how terrible it was. He talked about rats, painful, stinking trench foot, canned bully beef, precious tea rations and how “sometimes the food wagons didn’t get through”. He remembered his commanding officer handing him a razor and saying to the fifteen year old boy standing in front of him, “I think it’s time you started to shave.” My Grandfather was born on July 25, 1899 but his attestation papers list his birth date as July 25, 1898. Like so many others, my grandfather headed off to fight for freedom and democracy in 1914, so eager to be of service to their countries that a small lie about their birth date was worth the risk. It didn’t matter to the enlisting officers, so desperate were they for soldiers – even boy soldiers – at the front.
Grandpa was wounded near Amiens in France just before the end of the war. He lay in the mud of no man’s land for hours, not daring to move for fear of being shot by snipers. But he was found in time and while the recovery may have been long, he survived. Millions – including his own stepfather – did not.
So many people have given their lives fighting for our freedom and keeping the peace. There are those who come home alive but for forever changed – the wounded, permanently disabled, and those with mental scars that may never heal.
On Remembrance Day we also remember the military families, those who have lost loved ones and so many who wait at home and pray. There are millions of these wonderful souls all over the world doing something amazing for us every day by “keeping the home fires burning”. They are braver than I can ever imagine having to be.
Today at 11 am, I will stop in silence and remember the millions of people who fought and are fighting for my freedom. I will remember those who died, those who live, and all their families – and I will say a silent thank you.
Because of them we enjoy the kind of freedom many in the world only dream about. I owe them a far greater debt than I can ever repay. The least I can do is spend two minutes silently paying tribute to them on Remembrance Day. I hope that wherever you might be at 11am your time on November 11 that you will join me.
“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.”
Laurence Binyon 1869-1943