This is going to be a very different Remembrance Day. No parades, no huge ceremonies at the cenotaph, no big event in the Royal Albert Hall and of course very few RBL poppy sellers out on the streets. But should that make any difference to our thoughts and memories?
I have said before on these hallowed CVM Blog pages that there are several oppos from my time in the Royal Navy who I specifically remember at this time of year. Ian Williams (died on HMS Coventry in the Falkland Islands), ‘Frog’ (killed in an RTA just before we deployed to the Gulf in 1993), Scully (died of a heart attack at sea in 2003), the aircrew and passengers of HMS Brilliant’s Lynx helo (which crashed on the coast of Kenya in May 1989) and my mate Barry (killed on his motorbike on the way home from the ship).
I also remember family members who served in both world wars. But this year I can’t wear my medals and meet up with others. I can’t lay a wreath, march up the street or join with others in a two-minute silence. Does that make any difference? In some ways I guess it does, but it only makes a difference to me and not to their memory, because we are made for community and there is strength in standing together. But does it make their sacrifice any less valuable? No, it doesn’t. Not in any way.
So, who are you remembering?
You may not have anyone specific in mind, so how about looking up some stories on-line of great courage and sacrifice? It doesn’t have to be military sacrifice, could be anyone who has made a sacrifice for the good of someone else or a community (police, emergency workers, NHS staff, RNLI .. the list is endless). My maternal grandfather was a ‘reserved occupation’ in the Medway towns during WW2. He served as an auxiliary fire warden and some of the things he saw and did scarred him emotionally for the rest of his life, but he never really spoke of them. I remember his sacrifice as well. In the silence of lockdown who can you remember and say thanks for?
This year, even though I may get my medals out and reflect (along with my dads and my grandads medals), I will not be marching, I will not be laying a wreath and I will not be standing by a war memorial or in Church for a two minute silence. I have of course, stood for two-minute silences in many locations around the world: on flight decks, over WW2 wrecks, at war memorials, and anchored over the wrecks of ships sunk in the Falklands. However, every time, in the two-minute silence, even though I have been physically stood with others I am always alone with my personal thoughts and memories of those who have made sacrifices for the good of others. And that will not change because we are in lockdown.
The pageantry and tradition is good and helpful, but without it this year I think we will be able to focus even more on the people who have gone before rather than be distracted by the band, or the sea cadet making a mess of the last post – surely this may be a positive thing out of this strange situation we are in?
And ultimately of course we should reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and his words which are quoted as part of those ceremonies and services:
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.John 15 v 13 (Message)
Image Credit: Diana Parkhouse