I once lay in a bed protected by a wall of breeze-blocks with a roof of sheet steel and sand bags and I listened to the rockets getting closer and closer... but the expected one didn't land and I got to go about life the next day.
(Yes, there is a mattress under there!)
I remember sitting in the Green Bean coffee shop at a US Camp in Kuwait and this US soldier was sitting there with a look of terror written across his face. He was a teenager...19 and he was due to ship out to Baghdad the next day. He was on his own so I bought the guy a coffee, we had a long chat and I would like to think that I soothed his troubled spirit a little. I don't even know his name but I'll always remember his face.
As a senior rank, I have the privilege and responsibility to look after the welfare of the juniors under my command (and sometimes other junior ranks who just need a little guidance in unfamiliar territory) and I have walked more than a couple of chaps around the airfield to hide their tears... but the thing is... they all got through and they all returned to their families.
This Sunday is the most reverent day of my year. It is the day that I get to stand and bow my head to all those servicemen who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their motives may not always be for Queen and country but they still laced their boots and put on the uniform and went to do their duty... and they never came back.
If there is a remembrance service near you, make an effort to attend. Listen to the names that are read out. Think of their sacrifice but also think of the families that are left behind.
For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
It is the poem of remembrance and it is the thought of all servicemen penned on parchment.
I am truly blessed that none of my close friends have been taken in conflict but I know so many who have been affected by loss and when I stand and face the memorial this Sunday, I will remember them.
I hope you take the time to share an act of remembrance. Just stand and listen to the names of the fallen in your local town or village. Think of how the names are often linked into families and the effect it had on them.
Dwell on it.
Think of how they may have fallen.
Think of those who were left behind.
Think how you would have behaved in similar situations and how it would affect your family.
But most of all...
Bow your head, show respect and remember them.
You may not think the politics were correct but you cannot question the duty that was undertaken by these people in their country's name... they did what they thought was right and they believed their sacrifice made a difference.
I'd like to make further reference to all those soldiers around the world who died in service to a different land... the Czechs, Polish, Indian, Nepalese (Gurkhas), Russian, French, Austrian, Australian, American and many others who simply fought for freedom and peace.
Remember them... it's only fair... they died in the hope that we could all have peace.
See you from a point of reflection!