Harry Patch is the very last British veteran of the trenches of World War One. (I first posted about Mr Patch when he helped kick off the annual Poppy Appeal in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset late last month.) Today Mr. Patch calls for support for the troops while they are serving or when they first come home – not 80 years later.
So now, on Remembrance Sunday, it is up to me to speak out for all those fallen or forgotten comrades. But today isn't just about my generation. It is about all the servicemen who have risked or given their lives, and the soldiers who are still doing so.
My comrades died long ago and it's easy for us to feel emotional about them. But the nation should honour what we did by helping the young soldiers of today feel worthwhile, by making them feel that their sacrifice has been worth it.
Remember the men in Iraq and Afghanistan. Don't make them wait eight decades, like my generation had to wait, to feel appreciated.
The time for really remembering our Forces is while they are at war or in the years immediately after they return, when they are coping with the shock and distress or just the problems of returning to civilian life.
That is what upsets me now. It is as if we have not learned the lessons of the war of 90 years ago.
Last year, the politicians suggested holding a commemoration service at Westminster Abbey to honour the remaining First World War veterans. But why? What for? It was too, too late…….
……Somebody told me the other day that at homecoming parades for our men in Iraq and Afghanistan, barely anyone turns up. I was shocked. Even in our day there would at least be some kind of welcome.
I hope that today people will take the time to remember not just those who have died but those who are alive and fighting for our country. Please don't forget them – or leave your thanks until it is too late.
Veteran's Day in the United States, Remembrance Day in Britain and the other Commonwealth nations. I am not sure what they call it in France. But it was once just Armistice Day. The day the guns fell silent.
The echoes die, the smoke-clouds thin and pass,
The cannons are, like statues, dumb and cold:
Silent the crosses wait, and in the grass
The spent shells gleam like gold.
All spent he lay and dreamed till the moment came:
Now, waking with a cry, he looks, all wonder
To see the empty sky hurl down no flame:
To hear no crack of thunder.
– Henry Weston Pryce, 11 November 1918.
Harry Patch my be the last Tommy as he puts it, but he is certainly not the least. Support them, honor them and respect them for what they do for all of us. Don't wait 80 years to do so. It is not so very much to ask.