It is the afternoon of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The eleventh hour came and went. Veterans and their families gathered. The parades marched past and wreaths were laid in sombre reflection.
Close family wore the medals of loved ones no longer with them on the right of their chests.
Those marching have retired to raise a glass or two to comrades who never returned home, with comrades seen at reunions or very infrequently. Old stories are told, bonds of friendship renewed and promises made to keep in touch over the year to come.
Young children are told about war and are spared the truth about the true scale of the loss of life and the devastating effect it had on those that managed to return home.
It is Remembrance Sunday here in the UK.
Social media is full of people posting messages saying ‘Lest we forget’, but how serious are they about not forgetting? Are they simply virtue signalling for the day? Posting messages because they feel they are expected to, or simply to make themselves feel better? Only they truly know.
Back in my childhood
When I was a child, veterans were exclusively old men. They wore chests full of medals. Some struggled to walk on the Remembrance Parade and were pushed in wheel chairs. Talking to them about war was usually a taboo. Their eyes would glaze and they would look off into the distance, remembering experiences they were unable to share.
Today is very different. Veterans, men and women, can be in their twenties or even late teens. That is a sad indictment on our society. Today’s veterans often still have most of their lives to live after military service and many bear wounds and scars that cannot be seen.
As the poppies begin to fade how many will truly honour their words of remembering? How many will remember veterans all year round?
Veterans are for life, not just Remembrance.
How can we convince people to help Veterans all year round? Individual contributions don’t have to be much, but could make such a difference. That old man you see tending his garden in all weathers. Stop and have a ten minute chat with him. It could be the only conversation he has that day. The homeless man you try to dodge on your way to work. He is a Veteran. Why not buy him a warm drink and a sandwich? The woman sitting quietly on the bus, lost in thoughts from the past. She could be a Veteran. Ask her how her day is going. Very often, simply having someone to listen can help so much. Or write a letter to your MP telling them that the epidemic of PTSD is far reaching, hidden, and must be tackled head on, not hit with funding cuts. You don’t need to organise huge events. Little actions, week after week, month after month.
As a society we have a long way to go in supporting Veterans.
Small actions that do not take up large amounts of money or time can deliver such a change for our Veterans. Personal contact with others, others who have been there, others who simply listen, helps.
This needs to happen all year round, not merely on a single day.