Remembrance Day was just an annoyance back in school1, but when I consider the lives and suffering of soldiers, I am respectful and appreciative. It’s not a job I would want, but it is a necessary job2.
Although I haven’t had any relatives who’ve fought in the wars – I don’t even know anyone working for a military body – my appreciation is personal. I’m 18 years old now, and whilst I enjoy a comfortable and safe life, if born at various times in the last century, I could have been forced to join the army and fight in a war. I can attempt to imagine how horrible that must have felt, and I am grateful to have escaped it.
Millions have lost their lives on all sides of war; some die for a worthy cause, others don’t. I suspect that most don’t. I may not agree with particular wars, but a soldier doesn’t choose his enemy3, yet he endures war’s most awful costs. Civilians get killed, people get wounded, and in some countries even children are enlisted to fight. We may not support particular people, but we can still remember them.
Many people use this day to congratulate and thank only their own country’s soldiers4, but I can’t understand that5. Some countries work together on the same side6, and in any case, soldiers on both sides of a war are in exactly the same situation – making the same sacrifices, risking their lives to serve their country. They might be with us, against us, good, bad, right, wrong, justified, unwilling, stupid. They just follow different orders.
I might not be thankful when, for instance, a soldier fights to topple Saddam Hussein, and I might not agree with a German joining the Luftwaffe to fight for the Nazis, but I can still think about the fact that a person was in a situation where he risked his life – ostensibly – for others. Our fallen truly are victims, yet so are fallen enemies. We can learn from them, and we can remember them and their horrible deaths. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana7.
- Having a day dedicated to a certain thing seems a bit silly to me. ↩
- I hope that, one day, soldiers are no longer necessary. ↩
- I’m ignoring ‘terrorists’ at the moment – I don’t consider terrorists to be soldiers, but definitions of ‘terrorist’ vary greatly. ↩
- Americans are particularly keen to pronounce theirs ‘the best in the world’. ↩
- I’m also not keen on patriotism – it’s almost as bad as being proud of the colour of your skin. What would be so wrong with us all living as one nation, really? ↩
- Such as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the World Wars. ↩
- I know I’m mixing many points here, and indeed in this whole post, but I’m not a skilled enough thinker or writer to sort them out properly. And I want to get to bed. ↩