RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

Remember…

It’s an odd world we live in.  Events often unfold around us and we find ourselves in situations that are banal, interesting, exciting…sometimes even noteworthy…perhaps momentous.  The stock that we, and indeed our society puts on these events is down to the interest and importance we place in them.  What might be momentous to one…is banal to another.

I have found myself part of the Imperial War Museum’s War Story Exhibit.  When I was on my R&R I was asked by the IWM and the RAF to take part and to be interviewed on camera.  I was at first a bit shocked that I had been asked, and then a bit proud to have been…and then…

…and then I went along to the opening of the exhibition.  Well actually I went along to have a look at the exhibit before the grand opening, to check it out on the quiet, but then that evening I went to the opening event where the great and the good – and me – spoke great words, and I wandered about in pretty much the same bemused way that I did that afternoon.

There I was. Me. In the exhibit.  Me on camera.  People can go up and choose to listen to the words I spoke about things that happened to me in Afghanistan this year.  About what happened when the lad got blown up in the IED blast.  About what it was like to go outside the wire for the first time.  About what I did when I arrived home for my R&R. And they can watch me and listen to me chatter away about these things.

But here’s the thing.  I am there in the Grand Hall of the Imperial War Museum.  Alongside a First World War Tank.  Under a Spitfire.  Next to a Polaris Missile.  There’s a picture of me on the wall there.  On the same wall as a picture of a group of airmen from the 1940’s – dressed in Mae Wests and flying suits, clearly airmen from the Battle of Britain or similar.  There are other pictures and exhibits around the hall.  All things and people that are greater than what I.  Even the other people in the exhibition are greater and better and did more than I did.  They speak of the firefights they were in.  Of the friends they lost.  Of the fear of combat.  I just went to Afghanistan and did some stuff was NEAR to someone getting IED’d, was shot at from a long way away and with ineffective fire – most of projects and work I did didn’t even get finished by the time I left.  And then I had the balls to blather on about it to anyone who would listen.

I am truly humbled to be part of that exhibition.  I am also a bit embarrassed by it too.  Why do I deserve to be there? I don’t.  It’s just because I can’t keep my bloody mouth shut that I am.  Others should be there.  Someone better, someone who did more.  Someone who saved someone else’s life, or found a thousand IEDs, or built something that actually worked out there should be in it. Not a gobby chancer like me.

And then the time of year it is struck me too.  I was lucky to go out there and come home unhurt. I won’t say unscathed by it, because one of the reasons that I haven’t blogged for a while is that I have had a huge writers blog brought on by the fact that I feel guilty about not having done more out there.  I went there and did my best, but, I can’t help feeling that my best wasn’t good enough.  I could have done more.  I went there saying it was a test for me…and I can’t help feeling like I failed that test.  At least I didn’t live up to my  own expectations.

You see others out there – that I knew personally – who were better than me didn’t come home.  I met Dooner and JJ From 1 Rifles out there and instantly was amazed about how brilliant soldiers they were. But they didn’t come home to meet their families again.  Several other guys – including one other, Danny – all brilliant, brilliant soldiers got themselves hurt with life shattering injuries, and me, a daft Raffy who struggled with the heat and the kit and the gear and the going made it through unharmed.

And I am the one in the Exhibition Hall of the Imperial War Museum.  It’s more than bizarre. It’s more than wrong.

My record will be there for a year, their record will be in their families lives forever.  Theirs SHOULD be in the countries lives forever.  They did amazing, brave, heroic and self-sacrificing things.  I did not.

Remember them, and remember every other British and Commonwealth soldier, sailor, airman and marine who has given everything they can for this country.  And remember that for every one of those who died, there are many, many more who are still suffering, either physically scarred by battle, mentally battered by war, or just now aged and infirm and unable to help themselves anymore.

Please remember everyone of them this November 11th (and again on Sunday November 13th). It’s only a few minutes of your time, and if you can maybe a couple of quid into the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal too.  I certainly will be thinking about them and their families this year…and not thinking about much else.

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17 thoughts on “Remember…

  1. Malcolm Maeda on said:

    You should never ever feel guilty about being honoured for your contribution to our country. As I understand it you are in the RAF and volunteered or were put forward for a tour on the ground in Afganistan. You did that with bravery and commitment. You have brought the stories of Afghanistan to people who are not there and could never understand the brutal reality of it all. You are clearly an excellent story teller and a fitting person to help others understand the reality of war. For people like me who live every day in peace because of the efforts of you and others like you we will we be eternally grateful.

    Whatever your perceived contribution, if your no doubt very well-articulated stories can help inspire the next generation to seek further peace then it will have been a massive positive step.

    Thanks as always for this great read. Perhaps one day you will consider writing a book??

    Thanks,

    Malcolm

  2. kerry maria lawson on said:

    As Malcolm says, plus u have done us so proud as I’m sure T & little L would agree. Alex, you give us so much. Keep safe. xxx

  3. Valerie McKinlay on said:

    Thank you. I’m JJ’s mum who you mentioned in your blog. I’m truly touched that you speak of him and that he made an impression. But he was not unusual. He was just another soldier doing his job (and doing it damned well) who unfortunately was shot and killed. He should have come home but he didn’t and we’re all very, very sad. But above all we are proud of who he was and what he stood for. The guys who made it home are also fine soldiers and I’m proud of them too.

    Thank you for writing about and informing us what it is really like out there in Afghan. Keep blogging.

    • Valerie, as I have said before, even though I hardly knew him, he made a great impression on me very quickly. A top bloke and a great guy. I can’t imagine what you are going through right now, but you must know that he, you and your family (as well as Dooners) are often in my thoughts.

      Thank you for taking the time and the words to write this comment. It was an honour to know JJ and to serve with him with the Rifles.

      Swift and Bold.

  4. Bill Cooper (Coops1002) on said:

    Another Top Blog. You like all those that serve do your bit, you have the courage to step forward and are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, many would not be prepared to do so. You also stepped up and told us about the brave men and women serving. I am lucky enough to have served with the RAF and I am working with them again now. I believe those that serve have a chance to make a difference and from what you have told us you certainly have…………

  5. David Thomas on said:

    I was lucky. I served for 12 years and the worst I had to face was the crash site at lockerbie , 16hr shifts at 16mu during op granby and a 4 month tour in the falklands. I take my hat off to you and those you serve with you

  6. Dont ever say you didn’t do anything. If you hadn’t been there to hold the hand of a man that had stood on a IED, to let him know he would be ok, the support you gave him, he will rember forever.
    The words you sent back in your blogs, your empathy with what you wrote, let us all see a glimpse of what life is like over there. I will Remember all that have fought and fallen. But I will also thank God for bring you coming home to your family safe.

  7. Big Bro on said:

    I don’t know if I could have done what you did – we (the family) are very proud of you and I know Mum and Dad would have been too! On no accounts have you failed, I’m not sure how you could have done more; you put the building blocks in place for others of the MSST who will come after you.
    You described yourself as a ‘gobby chancer’ who only wrote some words – but what words they were that they served to show us ‘civvies’ the other side of operations in Afghanistan apart from the tragic TV pictures of Wootton Bassett etc so don’t beat yourself up about it – you had a far greater impact out there than you think.

    Big Bro

  8. Maybe the answer to your question, ‘Why did I come home and get included in the IWM exhibition when there were better folk that didn’t get included or get to come home?’ is simply this blog and your talent for telling those of us in civvy street the stories of those who were out there, what you all did, what you all hoped, and what the ordinary Afghan people thought of it all.

    I’ve not read all of your blog posts but they’ve all been informative or moving and they’ve served as a rebuttal to those who say that nothing is being achieved out there. Even trying and not getting something finished is more of an achievement than not trying at all.

  9. Only you know if you did your best over there. What the many of us here know is that you’ve made more of a impact than you could possibly imagine.

    So many of us don’t have the slightest idea what it is like over in Afganistan. Other than what I read on the BBC news site I’m in complete ignorance of the hardships and dangers you guys experience.

    Right now, i’m sitting infront of my computer worrying about having to make a college presentation! Yours blogs are like a slap to the face sometimes.

    You remind me that there is a real war going on, with real people such as Dooner and JJ making the greatest sacrifices.

    So thank you and keep it up!

  10. Jo Pilsworth on said:

    Thank you for writing a very moving blog post. Your humility should serve as a lesson to us all. Never feel embarassed by what you have done.

  11. can i just say THANK YOU sir, without people like yourself, we would not have the freedoms and libertys that we all enjoy, i was not brave enough to join the forces, so you could possibily call me a coward, you sir are a true hero, as all our service men and women are, without ur service, and the service of millions before you, to this country who knows what state this world would really be in. unfortanatley some will make the ultimate scrafice, and we will never forget this, we will mourn their passing, but we also rejoice in all the service men and women who come home safe and sound, so once again can i just say thank you.

  12. Very moving and modest account- thank you to you and all your colleagues for helping the rest of us say pretty much what we like and live a peaceful and stable, generally risk free existence- enjoying the freedoms which you ensure at the risk of your own well-being and even life itself.
    Our armed forces are one of the few things that still make us, as a nation, special.

  13. Well, unusually, you have made me angry this time. Of course you should be in the exhibition, of course you should tell your story to anyone who will listen and do not ever doubt that you made less of a contribution than someone else.

    Lastly, be grateful you have reached home in one piece. Now it is time for you and your family and friends. Be gentle to yourself. You are a hero – do not ever doubt it!

  14. What they all said above…
    Yes, Dooner and JJ gave their lives but if *everyone* gave their lives then there would not be people like you to tell us what they did – you ensure that Dooner and JJ are not forgotten.
    Of course you should have been there at the IWM.

    Thank you, to *all* of you
    xx

  15. I’ll quote your own words, “I went there and did my best”! That will do for me and I would guess that I am not alone. Not only did you do your best in the military role you were given, you also brought daily military life in Afghanistan into the lives of your readers. Thank you.

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