Why we should remember not to forget
But for a sniper’s sticky trigger, I would not be sitting here writing a last minute article about forgetting to remember Remembrance Day.
For those whose history is a little fuzzy, what was first known as Armistice Day commemorates the moment the guns of the Western Front fell silent at the end of the First World War, at 11am on 11 November 1918.
It became Remembrance Day after the Second World War, and has since become an opportunity for us to pay tribute to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts past and present. At 11am, time stands still.
We stop what we’re doing. We remember.
At least, we try.
There seem to be fewer reminders than there were. Poppies are still sold, but this week I have not seen anybody wearing one. And likely 11am will pass today in the same manner it does every day. With the majority of people going about their lives, not because they don’t care, but because they have forgotten.
I am fortunate to have known both my grandfathers—who fought in the Second World War—if only for a short time. One fought for the allies in Burma, the other flew Spitfires towards the end of the Battle of Britain. They were both called Frederick, a name I carry and now so does my son (you’d think that would have helped me remember), and the little I know of their wartime stories has stuck with me.
One in particular had my grandfather diving for cover during a sniper attack, only to run back into the line of fire to rescue his packet of cigarettes.
At the very least, I have remembered smoking has the potential to kill you.
For most of my life I have been able to live without the need to consider what it must be like to fight and be fought, to wake up that day knowing that if someone’s aim is good enough, it’ll be your last.
But I have often found this day makes me question whether I could have played my part as my grandfathers and their comrades did. Could I have been as brave, would I have been as scared, or as lucky? Would it have been easy to fight a war many thought of as ‘just’? Would I have it in me to fight for my country in a war I believed in, but that many others didn’t?
Remembrance Day is a good day for these questions. But a better day to remember those who have ensured and continue to ensure we never really need the answers. Those who fought for us and fight for us still. After all, they give us the freedom to forget.
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