Last week I did several tweets about events I had been to in connection with Armed Forces week. On Monday I went to the raising of the flag at the Town Hall and on Saturday I went to a ‘drumhead’ service at Liverpool Parish Church which was continued more publicly at the Albert Dock.
When I got home on the Saturday, I noticed that I had received two quite vile messages on social media which basically accused me of supporting war mongers and helping those who were in the pocket of the Arms Industry. Of course, neither of these is true but I just deleted the messages and did not dignify them with a response. For the record I went to those events to say “Thank You” on behalf of all of us for those who are prepared to die for us and to defend our democracy, freedoms and way of life.
I was also pleased to acknowledge the young people of the army, navy, air force and marine cadets who want to follow in the footsteps of the current team. Regrettably with the World in the state that it is we may be needing their services all too soon.
I detest war – we all should, but I do believe it is sometimes necessary. Evil flourishes if good people stand aside. Dictators from Stalin through Hitler to Putin via Bin Laden. We have to be ready to fight people when all other methods of diplomacy and reasoning haven’t worked. Regrettably that is only too likely with people like this.
Nor do we just train people to kill. We train them to kill if there is no other way of dealing with complex situations. Some of our service men and women die saving other people’s lives in appalling aftermaths of weather, tsunamis or earthquakes. They are given the skills and support to act on our behalf in a range of situations and they draw their bravery from deep within their own mental resources.
I regularly go to events also which commemorate with gratitude the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf and died in combat or afterwards from wounds sustained in combat. I’ve heard families speak with both sadness and pride of the heroism of their loved ones and see their shoulders stiffen with pride when the Last Post sounds and then when reveille is called.
Today Erica and I went for the fifth time to support people who didn’t die but whose loved ones did. It was the annual service of remembrance for the War Widows Association. This organisation was funded after the second world war by a constituent of mine Kathleen Woodside. Her story is particularly sad. Her husband died on the last day of the war. She celebrated the end of the war thinking that he would soon be home and then received the fatal telegram 2 days later.
You might think that this association would be literally dying out but let’s not forget that widows and widowers have been created recently in wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Attending their service always reminds me of two things:
- That deaths are painful to many people for many years. It affects whole families particularly parents who go to their children’s funerals and wives many of whom are left with children to bring up in very straitened circumstances.
- That we treat very badly those very families who sons and daughters have done the most for us. The War Widows Association was founded to fight for benefit and tax injustices being perpetrated on the families. This bad treatment continues to this day with the Association reporting back on how they are dealing with a number of problems with the MOD and DWP.
On a slight tangent it also makes me very aware of the fact that we look after our ex-service people badly as well. There are hundreds of small and specialist ex-service charities in existence to fight to provide assistance to veterans suffering from a range of mental and physical health problems. A very high proportion of the homeless in our towns and cities have come from the forces with little back up as they adjust to civilian life.
So, the little boy Trotskyists can sneer all they want to about the way most of us are proud to support our service men and women both past and present. Honouring them, supporting them and helping them in their shattered lives is the least that a civilised society should do to make reparation for their loved one’s bravery.