It’s that time of year again. When we remember. Remember the fallen, remember the dead. Remember those who have given their lives in wars throughout the last 100 years or so, in service of us, those left behind to have a free, decent and peaceful life
And as part of this remembrance we buy and wear poppies. And as with everything today, this has become a political act. We buy red poppies, we wear white poppies, purple poppies, even black poppies. Remembering according to our politics, remembering according to our beliefs.
I am not going to get in to the outrage caused and felt by the colour of the poppy. Christ, there is room in the garden for poppies of all colours – as long as we are remembering that people died and were killed and fought and suffered for us to have the privilege – the honour – to chose the colour of our poppy. By exercising the choose to wear what the hell we want – or even NOT to wear – we are honouring those men and women. They died so that we can exercise that choice.
We don’t dishonour them by not wearing the right colour. We might dishonour them by what we say though. Calling a poppy a symbol of hate or warmongering, or a symbol of cowardice or a symbol of disrespect does disrespect those who gave their all. It doesn’t matter what colour poppy is worn. As long as some form of remembering is carried out. Remembering that they lived and died in terrible conditions, facing great hardships that I hope, and pray (even though I am not a religious man) that no one would ever have to suffer again. Because, at the end of the day we are remembering that people died.
They were here, then they were not. And in the instant between the two states they felt pain, fear, hurt, loss, disappointment, anger. And none of those feelings and emotions are good feelings. They might have only lasted for a second or two – or they may have been long drawn out periods of extreme suffering only relieved by a blessed death. But none of the deaths were good. None of them individually made the world better. we can hope, though, that by their fight, by their sacrifice we might learn.
But there is another reason to wear a poppy. Not all those who have suffered in war or fighting have had that blessed release. They were hurt, either in body or mind, and they continue to suffer. They face years of pain, struggle and hurt. So we buy and wear poppies to raise money to support and help them. We remember the dead and support the living. We donate our money to repair the lives of those who have been hurt in their service to this country, but who didn’t die.
Our charity pound goes into the box and we wear our poppy, thinking of the dead. But we should also remember the living. In this house between my wife and myself, we have about 45 years of cumulative service. Me 25 years, her 20 years. And her service in the Army was cut short by injury. Not in the fields of Afghanistan. Not in the streets of Iraq. No, in a field in Germany, on an exercise, ‘tabbing’ – marching 60km, carrying a huge load – she compressed two vertebrae in her spine. This was sorted out, but slowly over time, she got referred pain in her arm, caused by nerve damage from her accident.
Eventually this nerve pain has made it so that she could not continue in her job in the Military as a Medic and she was eventually Medically Discharged a year ago. Since that time she has gone downhill. Her nerve pain has extended to lower back pain, lower leg pain, and a shuffling, slow moving gait that means she has become virtually house bound. This has had a similar effect on her mental state. That has gone downhill too. Not just by being married to me, but the loss of status, sense of self, sense of worth that has gone with being tossed on the military scrapheap…it’s pushed her down too.
And we together have had to fight. She has been given a War Pension for the injury, but her problems mean that I am unable to work full time, and whilst we are just about ok, and just about keeping our heads above water, we have very few luxuries. 45 years of service and we struggle to get by.
Her War Pension, and her disability benefits are no-where near the figures that equate to her disabilities, and we are fighting, fighting fighting to get them changed to reflect the way she – we – live our lives because of her service to this country.
As she is injured, we are members of various support groups that help us. Me, I am the member of a group that supports the carers of Wounded Injured and Sick service personnel. And We share our stories, our moods and our troubles and even, when they happen, our successes. And in this sharing I see that we are not the only ones fighting. The stories are terrible. With stories of unfairness, of bad treatment, of injustice, of discrimination, cover-ups and errors.
People injured in service having to buy their own prosthetic legs. Pay for their own treatment. Fund their own adaptations to their houses. People forced to leave the service they have loved and given their all for and forgotten about and ignored.
Thankfully the Charities don’t forget them. Help 4 Heroes, the Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, SSAFA, the individual Benevolent Funds and many many more organisations provide support, both physical and mental to people. And they do it through the donation of YOUR charity pound.
But, and here’s my rather long winded point, they shouldn’t have to. It should not be the responsibility of the charity sector to support and aid our injured. Our own fight seems to be a fight with the government itself. It seems that governments of all colours throughout the years have consistently said they have supported and cared for the injured of wars and conflicts. But the evidence, clear for all to see is that they haven’t. They don’t. In fact, from our standpoint, and the view from a lot of other injured and their carers, is that the governments through time have done exactly the opposite. They have obfuscated, obscured and obstructed help and support to the very people they owe the biggest debt to.
For soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines exist to do one thing. To do the will of the people through the government of the day. To do our dirty work. To go to places that we wouldn’t want to go to, and do things that we wouldn’t want to do for our good. For our freedom. They do it for many reasons, far too many to go into now, but one of those is that they do it for a reward and do it knowing that if they give their all they will be cared for. This Psychological Contract is the basis of the serviceman’s continued sacrifice. The soldier will give up his personal freedom to say ‘No’ in return for pay. He will give up his liberty to fight for the people who pay him. He will, if required place himself in danger and death in return for knowing that he will be cared for by the country.
Sadly this is not happening. The country isn’t fulfilling the contract – well, actually the people are…that charity pound again is doing it… but it shouldn’t have too. Our debt to troops doesn’t end when they finish their service, like our debt to the dead doesn’t end just because they are dead. Our tax pounds should be spent on supporting the injured just as much as it is supporting the serving. Governments have abdicated responsibility for our veterans to the charity sector. They have done so for years, no one party better or worse than the other. They have used our servicemen in war, but forgotten about them in peace. And in forgetting about them they have broken the contract with them. Thankfully the people of this nation haven’t and they, each year, provide money to the Charity sector to help and support veterans.
But they shouldn’t have to. YOU shouldn’t have to. Veterans, the wounded, the sick, the injured, who have served this country are forgotten about by the powers that be. And the governments should be ashamed of themselves. We are all proud of of forces, and I can tell you that the wounded, sick and injured are proud of the fact that the people care about them but saddened, on a daily basis that they have to fight the government for the care and support, financial, physical, and mental that they are owed. And that is our national shame.