Today in the UK, marks the day of remembrance for all those men and women in our Armed Forces who perished in the line of duty and those lucky enough to survive through their duties. We celebrate their brave efforts and sacrifices on this day to recall the end of hostilities of World War 1 (WW1) on that date in 1918. In accordance to the armistice signed by German representatives, hostilities were believed to have ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Although WW1 ended when the treaty of Versailles was signed 28th July 1919.
It is on this day, 11th November, that I try to imagine what it must have been like to be 16-17 years old preparing to go to war. How terrifying! Can you imagine saying goodbye to your parents, your brother or sister knowing that could be the last time you ever felt their embrace, see their face and hear them say “I love you”. I couldn’t imagine what life must have been like on the frontlines in WW1. I can’t fathom what life must have been like as a soldier in WW2. And for that reason I am grateful for their sacrifice. I realise that you and I are very lucky as I will probably never get to experience the tough, harsh and brutish conflict they endured in the name of peace and freedom.
Praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear – William Shakespeare
Throughout nature, conflict exists. The reasons for conflict are diverse often justified by needs of survival, dominance, political agendas and religious ideology to name a few. For better or worse, the rich tapestry of human history is stitched together with conflicts and coloured with the crimson of fallen comrades and enemies. Even today, where we live in a world in which we can frequent the moon, communicate instantly with those on the other side of the world and get a Cheeseburger for 99p, we still find ourselves in the midst of global conflicts. And what are the justifications of these wars? The same old archaic reasons; religious ideology, dominance and political agenda’s. Although the political agenda frames itself under the guise of “National Interest” or “National Security” (but this is another story). Despite the nature or rationale behind these conflicts it is important to remember that behind the uniforms these are human beings.
The sacrifices of these human beings, these brave men and women, these fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters have afforded us the luxury of freedom. Freedom is not a privilege. Freedom is not an entitlement. Freedom is not a birth right, it should be but it isn’t. Freedom is a treasure, a commodity, and it needs to be protected and we must help protect the freedoms of those who can not protect their own freedom. That is why I am grateful to those men and women who have sacrificed their lives so I can sit here in this coffee shop and share my opinions and beliefs freely, absent of any threat of persecution.
Wilfred Owen said “The old lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori” which translates to “the old lie; it is sweet and fitting to die for your country”. Although I love this poem, I disagree with Owen, who argues it is not sweet and fitting to die for your country. I would ask Owen, but if freedom is the prize of dying for your country, is that worth it? What do you think?
So, whatever you consider to be freedom and how you choose to exercise that freedom, you owe that to those countless brave men and women whose lives were sacrificed in the name of peace, liberty and freedom and those who will continue to do so.
We will remember them.