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Lest We Forget…

10 November, 2010 1 comment
The Cenotaph at Whitehall is a memorial to mem...

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I must first apologise to those few of you who read this blog. I  had intended to write much sooner after my return from R&R but circumstances haven’t been favourable for various reasons.

I don’t know when I’ll get to post this, suffice to say I’m writing it the Sunday prior to Remembrance Day and Op Minimise has been in force since 7AM. It’s been a sombre day with yet another British soldier being injured. This time I know the cause, and the injuries, and I’m appalled.

It’s at times like these that I question this life, not in the personal, suicidal tense but with regards to being a member of the Armed Forces as a career. Many people when confronted with a service person questioning their employment in this time of conflict ask “well, isn’t it what you signed up for?” In many cases this is an innocent, if naive, question, on others it is meant to draw debate. I know it’s not why I joined up, yes there was the awareness of the risk it may occur, but at the time I joined the Northern Ireland Peace Process was under way (albeit in its infancy) and Bosnia was beginning to ease its burden on our forces. By the time I’d completed training I found myself in Kosovo, since then there has been a constant stream of conflicts drawing us further afield, stretching us further and increasing the toll of dead and wounded each Remembrance Day.

It’s been said that with great power comes great responsibility but that’s just it; those who are out here do not have any great power, they are simply dedicated to a task which has fallen to them for whatever reason. They are no different to you or your neighbours, friends and family and yet the Nation expects them to face what no man should be asked to. Teenagers are forced to face their mortality, and their mates, on a daily basis, and all those who support them face the knowledge that the incessant procession of helicopters approaching Nightingale mean more of us have come closer, or too close, than any ordinary man should be asked to.

In 2008 when Morpheus Rising released An Ordinary Man in aid of HELP for HEROES I was criticised by fellow servicemen for the lyrics. Their argument was that we are anything but ordinary, we were a special breed, a breed apart. They missed the point. We are not extraordinary individuals, we do not have extraordinary powers, but we do face extraordinary situations and dig deep enough within ourselves to find the strength of character with which to face those situations. It’s a matter of camaraderie, fellowship and a common bond of respect for those whom have gone before which enable us to do what we do, whatever we do.

He’s an ordinary man
Why should he find himself doing these things
No ordinary man should be asked to do
He’s an ordinary man
just trying to do these things no one else can
He’s an ordinary man

The full lyric for An Ordinary Man can be found here. The song is currently available on the re-released single Fighting Man and can be purchased from iTunes and most online music stores as well as in CD format from Amazon UK and Morpheus Rising’s own store. Proceeds from the single are being donated to HELP for HEROES and the Royal British Legion‘s Poppy Appeal.

The personal impact however, is a different matter. What happens in this conflict and those things people see have an effect, a different one on each individual, but they will have an effect.

I remember speaking to a young Royal Anglian in hospital who explained that, despite having only served 4 years in the Army, he was leaving once he returned home. His reason? Not the fact that he had lost friends, nor the fact that he was lying in the hospital bed opposite mine having been injured by shrapnel from an RPG. His reason was the fact that he had joined the Army to be a sniper and he was out here doing just that. As far as he was concerned he had nothing left to achieve. He had joined the Army with a goal and that goal had been reached. Time to leave.

There are others who go home with a desire to return, they relish the challenge, they crave the adrenalin, they want to avenge their friends.

There are those who return home physically intact but shadows of the men they once were. PTSD, or shell shock as it was once known, is now widely accepted as a serious condition which needs treatment and care. In years gone by it has been ?? as cowardice, madness or an excuse. It is not. It is a reaction to something which has been seen, been done, even heard, which that individual’s character has decided is too much to deal with head on. It manifests itself in a different wat with each person who suffers. It is prevalent and it needs to be dealt with.

In reality everyone questions there involvement in a conflict such as this. Whether the reason is religious, moral or ethical, at some point every man jack will question the validity of the decisions made in the heat of conflict or the peaceful corridors of power. It is this journey of self discovery which will determine the type of person we are. It is the revelations we become aware of through that process which will determine the people we will become.

They ask me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands…
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.
‘Back’, Wilfred Gibs

On Thursday November 11th at 11AM I hope you will all observe two minutes silence. Not just for those who have already paid the ultimate sacrifice, or those who find themselves at Headley Court, but also for all those Fathers, Sons, Daughter and wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, relatives and mates who find themselves out here doing their job. After all, it’s what they joined up for isn’t?

P.S. Since I wrote this we’ve been on Op Minimise continuously…

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