I somehow doubt that there is anyone in Britain whose life was not touched by the First or Second World War in some way. It may be directly, or through relatives or a myriad other ways.
There are 53 identified Thankful Villages in the UK. 53 parishes where all the men who signed up for the services in World War 1 returned safe out of some 12,000 Anglican parishes.
Everyone knows the origin of the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance and a large part of the population will be wearing a poppy, particularly for Sunday.
War affects many more than just the soldiers fighting in it though. It affects civilians whose lives are destroyed but also it affects the families of soldiers, sailors and airmen.
My Father was in the Navy and was piloting landing craft on D-Day. at 19 he saw his best friend shot in the head and killed while standing next to him and, in his words, he delivered whole Canadians to Juno Beach and brought back bits of ones. I can’t say for sure how this affected my father. He never spoke of his experiences in combat until shortly before he died, but I believe it affected how he lived his life from that point on. From post war stories he told me I believe he tried to cram so much in to travel and life because he knew any day it could all end. He stood against injustice any time he saw it. He loved and worked hard to build and support community. He hated to talk about feelings and was physically reckless on many an occasion. Today he would probably have been diagnosed with PTSD. I can’t speak for my sisters but this affected how I lived my life. He probably came out of it fairly well compared to many. Emotional and mental damage was relatively minimal.
There was a mention on Radio 4 recently of a poll that showed the majority of British people valued and supported their armed forces but didn’t like the idea of them dying for them. That seems eminently sane to me. I value the fact that there are people committed to laying down their lives in defence of me but I don’t ever want there to be a situation where they need to.
I believe it is important to look after all the victims of war, Civilian and armed forces, which is why I was pleased to find out about the existence of the Armed Forces Covenant, a commitment by the nation to support our armed forces and their families. It’s not perfect and too much it should do falls to charities instead.
As a Christian my life is built around someone who was willing to die for me. On Sunday I will be remembering Him as well as the soldiers, sailors, RAF and WAF and Wrens who fought and died and fought and survived.