Why is Remembrance so important?
I think it’s because we aren’t just remembering those who died in war. We are honouring something else too.
We are honouring those from the villages, towns and streets that we walk everyday who risk themselves in service of their country. They defend our freedoms, our allies and our country’s proud if imperfect contribution to the peaceful ordering of the world.
We hold Remembrance dear because we know that even in the horror, waste and brutality of war lies a still stronger force. Even through the most murderous of World Wars and the twisted evil of terror, the human spirit endures, recovers and rebuilds again.
We remember because we know that, although war is mostly – though certainly not exclusively – fought by young men in far off lands, we all pay the price.
For families left behind the fear of not knowing, in my experience, is ten times the fear of the battlefield.
And then there is the fear of knowing what you never wanted to know.
We remember because we know that when our soldiers are at war, we are at war. We know that we cannot survive as a society without people prepared to put their neighbour before themselves.
We know that as soldiers, sailors, air men and women, and as police officers, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, teachers and – even – politicians, at our best we are motivated by something higher than ourselves.
We know that together we pay the price and share the triumphs.
That’s what went through my mind as we stood for two minutes outside Police HQ to remember the fallen.
At the beginning of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway – a man who knew a thing or two about the glories and the horrors of war – quotes John Donne:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”