I have always acknowledged when watching the news or attending a Remembrance Sunday service how grateful I am to those who have and continue to give their lives in the service of their country. they’re very brave and are doing something I just cannot possibly imagine myself ever being capable of doing. But despite acknowledging this and being hugely respectful to all those servicemen and women, their sacrifice had never really made an emotional impact upon me. Not until I find myself with a brother-in-law in the armed services.
The parliamentary vote a couple of weeks ago to support bombing in Iraq had a very real impact on me, and as the results of the vote were announced I sat there with the creeping dread that this could mean another 6 months for his poor fiance being on her own, another missed Christmas, and more worried phone calls between family checking that they’d heard from him. I know this all sounds very trivial by comparison to the bigger picture that he will no doubt play a brave part in, but its these familiar everyday things which make the emotional difference.
This year, with the huge amount of coverage about WW1 making clear the sheer scale of people lost to the conflict, it made me realise how lucky we are that so few of us have to do the day to day worrying about servicemen and women being away. 100 years ago virtually EVERY family would have been waiting for news about fathers, brothers, cousins or friends, and the nature of the conflict meant that far too many received bad news. You only have to see the pictures of the extraordinary display of poppies at the Tower of London to be struck by the sickening thought of all those people lost.
As we approach 11th November, and the poppy themed car stickers, wreaths and button holes start to appear, even if you haven’t got family in the armed forces, its worth just taking a minute to think about the generations of your family before you that probably did. Armed conflict seems to be a sad inevitability, but we can at least be thankful that it directly affects far fewer of us that it did in the past.
Natalie Fenner, Churches Officer, Diocese of Gloucester