Gavin, one of our readers and contributors, mentioned in an email last week that November 8th would be coming up shortly. I asked him for more information and he replied:
As for Britain’s Remembrance Sunday, it is the holiest day in the secular calendar mainly because we don’t have any others! Christmas is largely about drink and gifts. The solemn atmosphere, the emphasis on dignity, the recollection of sacrifice on our behalf, the two minutes silence which is close to prayer and I suspect the closest we Brits get to praying with others. Watch excerpts of Britain’s Remembrance Day service, and you’ll be moved.
So I did as he suggested. There were so many videos to see. So much pomp and circumstance in London, so much dusty wind in Afghanistan. But all those tributes underlined Gavin’s point: this is a holy day in Britain; it is a sacred commemoration wherever Brits are gathered.
The video I finally chose demonstrates the power of two minutes of silence:
Gavin continues his lesson to an American about Remembrance Day:
– – – – – – – – –
This Samuel Johnson quote explains the Brit’s sense that it’s the least he can do:
Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.
Or this from Churchill to an airman to whom he was awarding the Victoria Cross:
“You must feel very humble and awkward in my presence,” Churchill said.
“Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel in yours.”
For myself (and I think successful countries ruthlessly avoid military entanglements), I want to pay respect to the people who devoted so much for me and others, whatever I think about the individual wars.
Gavin made this further point, which has stayed with me:
We are prepared to live off other people’s money without shame, but not their courage.
Well, you know how Americans are. The sentiment welling up from such an experience makes us demand to know what we can do, in this case, what we can do for the men who serve.
He pointed me to this group, “Help for Heroes”, which describes itself as a charity for the wounded in the current conflict. Their current work has great appeal:
Help for Heroes’ latest venture is funding the establishment of Army Recovery Centres (ARCs) across the UK.
ARCs will provide a launch pad to life for seriously wounded or long term sick soldiers, supporting them as they make the transition to a fulfilling future. Prior to the Army Recovery Centre, once patients left hospital or the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, most continued to convalesce at home. But not all families can provide the level of support and care that is needed to allow patients to return to duty or gain a smooth transition to a skilled and supported civilian life.
ARCs will provide wounded soldiers with an individually tailored programme, including career management and counselling, which takes into account their particular injury and skill set. Each centre will be attached to a garrison, so that wounded soldiers can stay within a structured military environment close to friends and family, and take advantage of the garrison facilities. Although it is hoped that every soldier wounded in the service of their country will be able to return to duty, there will be many who will be destined to leave the services, and it is important that they receive assistance and guidance in this.
The Pathfinder ARC, the Mark Wright GC House, opened in Edinburgh on August 17, 2009, as a partnership between Help for Heroes, which is funding the project, the service charity Erskine, which provided the building, and the army, which will provide the military staff and the programme for the twelve residents. The creation of further ARCs, delivered as quickly as possible, is now an absolute priority for H4H and the Army. Help for Heroes is raising money to open further, fully comprehensive centres accommodating 20 residents with larger staff in Colchester, Catterick, Tidworth, Aldershot and a more permanent solution in Edinburgh.
This is a serious and ambitious undertaking. Notice the cooperation between civilian and military groups here:
- Erskine has been in existence serving former service members since 1916.
- Help for Heroes, mentioned above
- active duty military personnel
On the description page, an explanation of this novel approach:
Under Secretary of State for Defence, Kevan Jones said: “We are constantly reviewing how best to support our injured people, and this is an important new initiative. It’s an exciting model, bringing the MOD, Erskine Homes and H4H together, ensuring that each organisation can focus on what it does best. It will help us learn more about this partnership approach for the future, and how it could fit into the new welfare support package that the MOD is developing for all service personnel, veterans and their families.”
One cultural difference I noticed on the FAQ page at the Help for Heroes website: people were questioning why private charities were involved with helping the military since it was the job of the MOD (Ministry of Defence) to do this.
This question would never arise in the U.S., where the idea of voluntary organizations of all sorts is part of our character. I fear, though, that as government intrudes into all aspects of our lives this mindset will become common here, too.
This is not a criticism of the Brits for their questioning of whose job it is to create a rehabilitative space for those soldiers who made it home. Rather, I am lamenting the fact that the kind of cradle-to-grave soft socialism which envelops Europe will gain traction here. When something needs to be done, will we expect our government to be the only body responsible for assistance? What will happen to our strong national characteristic of help for our neighbors, or for those less fortunate? Given the confiscatory tax rate in European countries, why wouldn’t its citizens expect that government should provide for every need of its military wounded?
This project is truly novel. Nothing like it exists here and I’m not sure the higher-ups in the Pentagon would permit military participation in such an inspired undertaking. With the vultures of tort law hanging in the nearby trees, just waiting for someone to make an honest mistake (giving the lawyers a chance to make a killing in a lawsuit), our military probably couldn’t risk it anyway.
I have wandered far afield from Remembrance Day. Gavin is right. This is truly a sacred remembrance, and it is observed across the country. I’ll end with another, very different tribute. This one, from Cookham, is touching because it seems so much like what it would be here where we live, if America gave tribute to her warriors in the same way:
The young man playing “The Last Post” went on to Trinity Music School.