Kate at The Five Fs is in my life because of twitter: way back when the world of 140 characters was a terrifying prospect and I was watching from the sidelines, I kept seeing her in Him Up North’s timeline. Frankly, I was just nosey, so I followed her. Turns out she is very knowledgable about things that begin with F. And tweeting. She may be a tweetaholic. Her recent Life Circle posts have really made me think about what I want from the future and, when I get out of the PND fug that is eating my soul, I will actually do something positive about that. In the meantime, she shares her Remembrance story:
Remembrance, in its official sense, has been a big part of my life. I grew up in a household that was heavily involved in the Royal British Legion. Whether or not it was more to do with the fact that the local club could be seen from our back garden and offered cheap drinks, I don’t know, but my parents were members thanks to my father having completed National Service and when my sister and I reached middle school, my mum took on organising the poppy collection in the town. It became the unofficial family business and from a youngish age, I used to help my mum count out all the money from the collecting tins on the Saturday and help her get it bagged up before the cash was collected. She did it for many years and for a while was County Poppy Organiser too.
Remembrance Sunday is just that – remembering those who gave their lives in conflicts around the world. I hope people remember that many also survived but suffered terrible injuries or lived with what we now know as PTSD. Again, this is something that touched my life as a child. My uncle Pat, my mother’s brother-in-law, was left a paraplegic after the D-Day landings. When I was 14, he died mysteriously in a car crash on a road he shouldn’t have been on (he’d gone for petrol half a mile away and was found several miles in the opposite direction). The day of the accident was the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of war, a day when a chain of events was set in motion that led to his imprisonment in a wheelchair. It was never proved it was suicide, as it was an open verdict, but deep down, I think we all knew the answer. (I published the full story on my blog last year).
The money raised by selling poppies allows the RBL to do so much for ex-service personnel and their families, to help them whatever their circumstances after they leave the Forces. If they are badly injured, they help to make their lives more comfortable and bearable for all. If it is more practical but basic help like working out benefits that is needed, they’ll do that too. They also help bereaved families of those killed in action as well in both practical and emotional terms. That’s why they need your money.
Wearing a poppy is an act of remembrance. It must be the most recognisable charity symbol in the UK. Everyone knows what it means. It reminds the wearer as well as those who see the poppy what it is all about –remembering the sacrifice of the millions who fought so we could be free.
I was once lucky enough to take part in the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. It was quite an experience, surrounded by servicemen and women when I had never been in the Forces myself. The year I took part was 2001 only a few weeks after 9/11 had taken place and so, a different act of remembrance featured in the festival – an officer from the NYPD and the New York Fire Department attended and received the loudest applause of the night. At the end of the Festival, they drop the poppy petals onto the festival participants who are stood on the central floor of the Albert Hall. It looks moving if you watch it on the television; when you are there in person, with petals falling and fluttering on top of you as you stand in an eerie silence, it is far more so; I was nearly in tears.
Once you have experienced the Festival of Remembrance, or seen the work that the RBL do with the money that you give, you cannot fail to buy a poppy. As I said before, buying a poppy IS an act of remembrance. Buy one. And remember.