Wars happen and they are brutal. Sometimes a conflict is not even recognised as a war, instead being called a 'peacekeeping action' or perhaps a ‘confrontation'. But, to the soldier whose blood filled a gutter in Northern Ireland, drained into the sand of Iraq or lived with the scars of the South Atlantic, it’s a war and the consequences are real.
Recently, we have remembered the dead from Jutland and the Somme. Vast cemetaries filled with ranks of headstones or lists of names on imposing monuments help us remember the dead but hide the squalor, the grim and bloody reality of being asked to kill our fellow human being with bullet, shell, gas and bayonet.
Governments decide to go to war and Servicemen and women carry out their orders as best they can. We excel at remembering our dead and pause in our busy lives to pay respect to those who have been called to sacrifice their lives on our behalf.
How often do we stop to think of those who live and carry their scars, both physical and mental? What happened to the millions from the World Wars who lost limbs or suffered intolerable mental torture? We see faded photographs of Invalid Battalions but did those casualties rebuild their lives? Did we remember them?
Let others talk about the rights and wrongs of war. Let others honour or accuse those responsible; that’s not for us. Help for Heroes is supported by people who want to help those who are living with the consequences of their service. Non critical, non political, we simply want to help.
The consequences of war continue long after the guns fall silent, the battles for decent, independent and fulfilling lives go on. However, we, the people who understand that we can’t stop wars nor prevent our men and women being hurt, can make a difference; we do make a difference. Every day we hear from those who felt their lives had finished but now look forward; smiles replace tears of despair.
So, let us not spend our time making accusations of who said or did what. Let us get on, together, with the job of rebuilding lives. Remember our dead and help us care for the living.
Onwards and upwards
- In the first months of the Iraq War, 4,000 British personnel were treated in UK Military Field Hospitals
- Overall, 10,747 men and women were medically discharged from the British Armed Forces between 2003 and 2009
- Help for Heroes offers support to them, their families and to Veterans of all conflicts
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