Remembrance, what does this word mean to you? Today in the United Kingdom we are holding Remembrance Sunday to pay tribute to all those who have fought and are fighting to keep our country safe. I’ve always watched the proceedings on TV since I was young but as I’ve gotten older it has started to have new meaning for me. I have friends in the armed forces and I understand more than ever the sacrifices they make to protect the country and people they love, to them it is unconditional.
My grandfather fought in the Second World War over in Belgium and France but he would never tell me or my sister about his experiences when we asked him for our school history research into the wars, I believe he knew he had made his sacrifice count. I cannot imagine the things the soldiers in the First and Second World Wars had to witness but I can understand why so few of them were willing to speak about their experiences. They do not want to remember.
I visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire recently and it was incredible how moved I was by it all. Just sitting in the presence of some of the Memorials almost moved me to tears. The Shot at Dawn Memorial was particularly moving with its set out. Tall Conifers growing and a single statue of a boy bound and blindfolded, target adorning his chest. The conifers are set out to represent the small distance between the target and the shooters, barely over 2 meters away. Posts behind the statue in a semi-circle gaining height as they go back each adorned with a name, rank and company, date and age each representing its man accused of deserting and shot for his ‘Crime’ even though most would have been shell shocked. The memorial was built alongside the recent pardoning of all these men, though too late for the spite and accusations their families would have faced after their fate.
There are many memorials in the Arboretums grounds and to cover them all would take a full day but all are built with remembrance in mind. The Still Birth and Neonatal death memorial is another tear jerker though you’d struggle to find it unless you know where it is. A small gate gives way to a winding wood chipped path lined with stones each painted and decorated by a loved one with their own message or name on. Some of the messages are incredibly moving and it is heart-breaking to see stones decorated by the same family after having lost more than one child. At the end of the path the wood chips give way to a circular grassy patch surrounded by flowers and a tall hedge to give you shelter and quiet to grieve, remember or in my case contemplate what the parents must have gone through and felt.
Remembrance to me is gratitude for what you have been given at the sacrifice of others, giving your thoughts and prayers to those who have felt adversity and making positive movements towards the future. It is being thankful for what you have not what you wish you had and remembering all I have been given could be very different. So today buy your poppy from one of the vendors, or better yet direct from the Royal British Legion, and wear it with pride, donate money to our forces through organisations like Help for Heroes and the National Memorial Arboretum and be thankful for your elders who sacrificed for your future especially since there are so few of them left now.
"Never was so much owed by so many to so few" Winston Churchill