Today was Remembrance Sunday in the Uk.
Usually I spend the two minutes of silence thinking of all the battlefields and war zones – imagining them without gloss or shine, with the mud and pain. I can’t say it’s accurate ( all I have are words, films and pictures to go on ), only that it feels like I’m getting some hint of how it may have felt.
This year, however, I found myself asking how I would explain to someone who didn’t understand, my wish to remember and pay respects.
It wasn’t an easy thing to express even to myself, but a lot of it comes down to faces.
You see, it’s easy to take things and strip them so they’re easier to deal with. Governments do this at times when they turn huge groups of people into percentages or large amounts of money into pennys in the pound ( of tax paid ) and we do this a lot when dealing with groups of other people who we don’t know.
It’s so much easier dealing with one lump rather than many individuals and, often, it’s even necessary ( after all I wouldn’t be able to know or remember even the population of a small town, let alone a country ). The problem, maybe even danger, lies in what happens if we lose sight of the fact that these are real people, not just faceless numbers or clay moulded generalisations.
This time of year there’s a chance ( nay. An obligation ) to stop running and still ourselves, and, in that time, a moment when we can be reminded of the faces and lives of others who faced the harshest of things and, in doing so, were shown more clearly to history, as though a bright light was shone on them.
These were and are men and women who’ve faced, for whatever original reason, the chance of death and pain in order to protect us – though to them we must be a faceless mass as well – without hope of thanks or praise. Those who returned will have changed greatly because of what they faced and some will have been lucky to return but only to find that they don’t fit in at home any more.
There is no one description of what a warrior should look like, nor would all we honour be called warriors. The spies and medics, strategists and communications people and so many others were also there and heroes too.
Likewise not all those worthy of honouring saw battle with blade and gun. There are countless heroes who would charge through fire or face a violently waved gun unarmed, have fought to save a life which is fading through their very hands or sparked hope in someone who’s life feels worthless.
I remember these people today because of the fact that they chose to do this, to care when it was hardest and thankless. I remember them so that I may remember that spark of goodness which is the most important thing to see in those I meet.
I include a link to wikipedia’s list of VC medal holders here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_Victoria_Cross_recipients
And a link for the holders of the US Medal of Honour – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Medal_of_Honor_recipients
There are bound to be many more lists but these were the two most easy for me to find. The names link to more detailed descriptions of the recipients and their lives.
I think it’s sometimes worth seeing that these are more than just faces and would suggest it’s worth browsing through to remember that these are among the people we honour – they are many and varied, of every path that we could live on, but they are as one in that they risked it all for people who didn’t even know them.
I would also say it’s worth remembering the firefighters and medics, police and others ( from care workers to people who just happened to be in the right place at the right time ) whose sacrifices will be remembered in their own memorial sites and walls or in the memories of communities and family.
If you want to add links to other memorial lists, pages or heroes in comments please do. I would welcome them.