Armistice Day... and I cannot remember when it has been so honoured within the UK as it is today. Coming from an Army family and having myself been in uniform for sixteen years, it has been a poignant time for me always, and Remembrance Day also. While these yearly anniversaries have been marked by the media and the public, until recently there has been a growing sense of tokenism about the remembering, with the meaning and sacrifice of the wars truly understood by those who had been there or who have served their country in uniform themselves.
The gulf between a generation of people who had never come close to war and those who had was huge and growing; it was so great that for most of the time of my own service I was not allowed, like all my fellows then, to go into a public place in uniform (unless it was for duty) for fear of reprisal, and I remember on one occasion the car in which I was travelling, in uniform, being attacked by a group of young men when it stopped at traffic lights. It was a time when there seemed to be two separated societies, with little integration between the Army and civilians because it was not wanted by the civilians.
The immediacy of news coverage now and the reporting of losses in Afghanistan is done in such a way that we feel we know each soldier who dies, the legendary bomb disposal expert, the exemplary Regimental Sergeant Major, the young Rifleman who was killed only six months after joining up, before he was 18. They are human beings like the rest of us, with families, personalities, frailties and community connections. Each one has given many gifts of courage and service, and each one has, unknowingly, helped the general public to see that the military is part of us, not a breed apart, that we are all part of the same community. As such it behoves all who are in that community to support and honour each other in the way we can do it best. It is wonderful that now it is beginning to happen, and to be seen.