Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero…Guest Post – 1
As you may know, today, 26th June 2010, is Armed Forces Day, and I wanted to use that date as the start of a weeks worth of guest blog posts. The posts themselves will come from a selection of people, serving now, serving in the past, serving in the future and, from a couple of people who have NEVER served and are ‘committed civilians’.
The first guest post is from one of those ‘Civvies’, and I’d like to thank the marvelous Lisa Lynch (who the more descerning blog readers amongst you may know as “Alrighttit.” This fantastic blog (http://alrighttit.blogspot.com/) which described her journey through Breast Cancer at the age of 28 has been one of my regular reads. (Indeed her blog was so amazing, Lisa recently had it published as a proper book that you can buy on Amazon and in WHSmiths and everything – and a fantastic read it is too.)
So it is with great thanks that I ask a proper, published writer, (and someone who’s shown amazing bravery in standing up against something so mind-numbingly evil as cancer and chemo and all that ‘Bullshit’) to kick off the Guest Blog Week with Lisa writing:
Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero.
I spent a few days in Chicago recently, doing all the shamelessly touristy stuff a Ferris Bueller fan can squeeze into a few days off: the viewing platform at the top of the Sears tower, baseball at Wrigley Field (only a continuous gob-full of hot dogs could stop me yelling ‘heyyy-batter-batter-batter-batter-swiiiing-batter’ a la Cameron Frye). Hell, I was merely a ride in a Ferrari and a rendition of Danke Schoen away from becoming Ferris himself.
Walking away from the Sears tower, quoting lines from the script as I went (‘The city looks so peaceful from up here’…’Anything is peaceful from one thousand three hundred and fifty-three feet’…’I think I see my dad’, etc), I turned a corner and inadvertently stumbled upon the beginning of a parade, just like the one in the movie. It was as though the smiling ghost of John Hughes had arranged it himself, just for me.
Alas, a more reasonable explanation soon presented itself: this was Memorial Day: a federal holiday to commemorate US soldiers who have died while in the military service. And though I wasn’t quite witness to a Bueller/Beatles performance of Twist and Shout, what did strike me was how the parade seemed much more celebratory than I would ever have imagined of a commemorative event.
‘What’s our equivalent of this?’ I asked of my husband as my foot tapped along to a marching band.
‘Remembrance Day, I suppose,’ he said.
‘And what happens then?’ I asked. ‘I mean, I know about the poppies and stuff, but what else do we do?’
(I should at this point make it clear – if it isn’t already – that my understanding of military commemorations – heck, military anything – is atrocious. I guess I’m just your average civ with the kind of Armed Forces knowledge at which service men and women would rightfully roll their eyes.)
‘Well, there’s the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph, isn’t there?’
‘Oh aye, yeah. Where people lay wreaths and stuff.’
‘And the country observes a two-minute silence.’
‘Yeah, I know all that, but what’s our equivalent of this parade?’
‘Well… um. I don’t suppose we have one,’ he admitted.
My American friends later confirmed my husband’s suspicion that UK Remembrance Day is the holiday that has most in common with Memorial Day: there are official ceremonies, the president delivers an address and poppies are sold on the run-up to the event. But that, I think, is where the similarities end.
Never before had I ever really considered how other countries honour their respective forces, but Chicago’s baton-twirling, quick-marching, hard-drumming parade had me wondering whether – thanks to our quieter, more traditional (some might even say stiff-upper-lip) approach to remembrance – our service men and women in Britain feel as celebrated as their US counterparts?
Uneducated as I may be in all things military, I’m still not daft enough to start pitting our methods of memorial against each other. Because, really, how can you possibly compare the understated compassion of the proud march of old British soldiers on Remembrance Sunday with the more upbeat, flag-waving tributes of a Memorial Day parade? Each is equally moving in its own way. Judging one commemoration against the other would be like trying to compare the sky and the earth; a painting to a song; fish and chips to Mississippi mud pie.
And nor am I idiot enough to get into a Celebrity-Deathmatch-style contest of whether the US or UK values their troops more. Sheesh, military connections or no military connections, I’d be first in line to declare my pride in all those serving, former serving and future serving members who so brilliantly defend their country through the Armed Forces. But something that happened a couple of days after Memorial Day made me question how often I have actually made that known.
Sitting by the departure gate, waiting to catch a delayed flight out of Chicago, I took my chance to indulge in a spot of my favourite spectator-sport: people watching. There were the usual airport-standard sights, of course – a man complaining at the check-in desk, siblings arguing about who gets the window seat, a woman moaning to her husband about having had her tweezers confiscated – but then I saw something I’d never seen before. A US Naval Officer (I’m assuming) in his dress whites approached the departure gate and stood before the bench on which I was sat. And, naturally, I couldn’t help looking at him. I caught the woman beside me clocking him too. But while I was merely thinking ‘coof, you look hot in that uniform’, she was instead looking past his whites, in pride at what that uniform represented. And then she stood up, offered her hand and said: ‘Thank you for your service.’
Well, I damn near welled up.
‘Did you see that?’ I whispered to my husband as the Officer’s chest visibly swelled with pride.
‘I know, how great was that, eh?’ he replied.
‘Completely wonderful,’ I blubbed.
As the departure gate filled up with disgruntled passengers concerned about catching their connecting flights, I continued to stare at the Naval Officer. ‘Why haven’t I ever done that?’ I wondered. ‘Why haven’t I ever thanked a service man or woman in uniform?’
And even a month after the event, I’ve still got no decent answer. But, regardless of the respect I may or may not have shown in the past, I have resolved to do so in the future. I mean, blimey, I’m never afraid of telling someone that I like their frock or how much their new hair colour suits their skin tone, so what’s stopping me telling a member of the Armed Forces how grateful I am of their work? Nothing, that’s what. Well, nothing and shyness, I suppose.
The beauty of the internet, however, is that – as I’ve discovered on my own blog – there’s no place for shyness. And so I’d like to take this opportunity to say something I should’ve said long ago to the only military serviceman I know.
So, RAFairman, thank you for your service.
(And, while we’re at it, you look hot in that uniform.)
And thank you, Lisa. Please leave your comments below.
Come back tomorrow, for another Guest Blog Post…