I went to my 8 year old son’s school Remembrance Service this morning. I hadn’t planned to go and was ready to make my quick escape the moment I had said goodbye to my offspring. But I was waylaid by a parent and as my ‘must get back’ minutes ticked by, I decided to join the school for the morning assembly.
All the children wore a poppy and I was glad to see the staff were standing by to make sure there was not one child without and in the audience were a few ‘old soldiers’ wearing their medals of honour very proudly.
The service began with two songs, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘Pack All Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’ sung by Year 6, none of whom were born prior to the new dawn of our 21st techy century.
There was then a performance of poetry recital; jeese, there really is nothing like poetry to really punch you in the emotional stomach, the few lines that make up a poem are so tightly packed with every emotion, a full novel and message that no one can fail to understand – a bite-size blockbuster of gargantuan proportions squeezed into a few verses.
It was Siegfried Sassoon’s poem To Any Dead Officer that made an impact on me. Huh! “impact”, what do we know of that? The lives of those who were killed during the First and Second World Wars were a living Hell and that was before they were injured or died a slow and painful death. I felt humbled and almost ashamed for the times when I have moaned about being slightly chilly or rather hungry.
Then one of the congregation read a list of names, not just any list, but the names of those men who had died during the Second World War and who, as children, had attended my son’s school.
What surprised me was that most of them were reservists, so not even ‘career’ soldiers, so the farmers and bank clerks, just the ordinary people, had died on the battle field.
But then I looked around me at the faces of the children, none of them older than 10 years and I imagined those people on the list, the reservists, had spent their childhood at this school. That not that long ago, they were singing songs and running around the playground with whoops of delight. That they could not possibly have known what lay ahead of them in the trenches, or trying to avoid being shot down during aerial combat.
I looked at my 8 year old son and thought ‘God, no. I would do anything to stop my son having to go through that.’
Then we were reminded that Remembrance Day is not just about the two great wars, it is to value the sacrifice made by everyone who has died during every conflict, which let’s face it are too many to name and probably some of which we don’t even know about.
Sadly the Human Race is not designed to live in peace, whilst there are many exceptions, we seem on the whole to be a greedy, self-serving, viscous lot who find it impossible to avoid conflict; so the chances of there ever being world peace are so remote as to be not worth imagining.
But what I will remember now not just on Remembrance Sunday, but every day is that there are people who are willing to become a name on a long list of names of fallen heroes and that if it wasn’t for their selfless attitude and belief in the greater good, I wouldn’t be able to complain about being cold or hungry.
To all those who fight for the greater good and do what they can to protect others, I salute you all and assure you that I will not forget you.
And every time I look at my sons and I watch them running around having childish fun, I will think also of those children who ran around in the playground who once had a future they gave up for you and me.