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I wonder what those veterans, those young men who went to war on our behalf and paid the ultimate price would think about the slow but long overdue resurgence of gratitude and admiration the younger generations seem to be brought up with these days. For many years it wasn’t acceptable to thank and respect those that went to war so that we could be free.
It seems to be some defacto fact that, the further away that human kind gets from any kind of global conflict the further away the generations get from the truth, and therefore, a true appreciation of the sacrifices made by every countries youth, because youth make the best fodder. And so it was the further we got from the Korean and Vietnam wars the further our youth got from the whys and wherefores. But 9/11 and all that came after has changed that, hasn’t it.It’s ironic, is it not, that the freedom earned in blood and the future of every country’s youth embroiled in conflict buys
those that come after the freedom to question and criticize the sacrifices that bought them that self same freedom.
My uncle Alec fought in the second war to end all wars, proudly and without reservation. Not because it is what he wanted to do; rather because it was what he felt duty bound to do; for all those that could not to be sure.
He lost his best friend during Operation Market Garden. He once told me about crawling through a graveyard where he and a few comrades had gone to pay tribute to one of their fallen while the shells from an enemy bombardment fell all around. When they stood up afterwards, little tufts of grass had wrapped around their spit and polished buttons. While they could chuckle about it afterwards, while the bombardment was taking place they were terrified for their very lives; who could EVER hope to appreciate the kind of terror they felt, unless they, themselves, had been in a similar situation.
My parents and many of my relations lived through The Blitz, school aged children and therefore to young to take up arms. To me, sitting here safely in 2009. The thought of going to school in the morning after a bombing raid, walking past the bombed out hulks of homes and buildings that had been there just the day before is incomprehensible.
Freedom and democracy are the end results of the cost of a countries youth.
I have been fortunate in my lifetime to not only have known my much loved uncle, but also a very dear friend who served with both the 48th Highlanders and the Cape Town Highlanders. While Bob MacDonald was never called upon to go to war, he was always more than willing to do so. In fact, while a member of the Cape Town Highlanders, Bob was called to duty during those tumultuous days during the end of Apartheid.
Growing up watching John Wayne, Sly Stalone and Ahnold beating back the bad guy it is very easy to say that, if called upon, anyone of us would have done the self same. But think about it. Could you honestly say you would be willing to crawl through the rat infested hell holes that were the trenches on the Western Front during the first war to end all wars?
Could you honestly say you could sit their and watch your best friend blown up in a tank from a hidden 88mm gun that you had been dispatched to find but never could.
Could you watch someone, friend or not, laying in a ditch futility trying to stuff their internal organs back into their own body just to stay alive.
Could you ever watch and attempt to comfort a friend while their lifeblood flowed inexorably from their body.
Unless you can, how could you ever hope to question the sacrifice that they make. You can hate and disagree with a war. That is your right, paid for in blood by soldiers. But do not; and I mean DO NOT question the soldiers who are there trying to protect the rights of freedom on your behalf.
All year through, but at this time in particular, each and every one of us owes those who currently serve and those who have served before a debt far to great to ever hope to repay. And those who made the ultimate sacrifice? Words fail me.
On November 11th, and during the entire week of the 11th, you owe it to a veteran to say a heart felt Thank You. That would be a start, because those who protect us from harm deserve our thanks, not to mention our prayers 365 days a year.
In Flanders Field
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
A past remembrance of my Uncle Alec
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