my cousin’s eldest son, steven, is a soldier and he is away from home with the rest of our best and brave, fighting in afghanistan.
he’s a nice young man and his commanding officers say he is a very good soldier. He’s a dad too and I don’t know how his family get through the day while he is out there facing daily dangers.
A few minutes before the first plane hit the twin towers in 2001, he and I and the rest of his close family had seen his grandad take his last painful breath. While his mum and gran were sorting out the necessary arrangements, myself and steven went home with his younger brother. The boys were only teenagers and had just lost their grandad so I switched on the TV to distract them a little.
In some ways it was a mistake because the tv was filled with the coverage of the devastation resulting from the first plane having hit one of the towers but it was certainly distracting. At the time, we didn’t have much idea what was really going on but steven asked why it had happened. Without any information to the contrary, our assumption was something to do with america’s greed and commercialism. The plane had hit the centre of New York’s trade quarter and although it seemed bizarre, it did look like an attack.
It may or may not have had an affect on steven but he went straight into the forces from school without any hesitation and without wanting to do anything else at all.
He has been to afghanistan 3 times now and it is looking more and more likely that he will need to go back again after this tour.
It isn’t just because I have family serving in troubled lands, I have simply found the loss of so many young and brave lives very, very difficult to come to terms with. I don’t know how families survive the worry and anxiety when their loved ones are in such mortal danger.
When our prime minister stood alongside the president of the US in the wake of the twin towers attacks, I thought he was preventing the US from bombing the whole world in a knee jerk retaliation and I thought that perhaps they were right to go into iraq.
I now know it has been a huge, huge mistake to be in iraq and afghanistan and the toll it has taken on the brilliant young future of our country cannot be justified. My grandad was a dunkirk veteran and would have been horrified to think all the loss he witnessed in the second world war had not protected his great grandson from having to go into battle for his country.
The cenataph is there to remind us all that huge loss of life in war must never happen again. It has happened again and it’s tragic.
I couldn’t bring myself to watch yesterday’s service but I will always buy poppies at this time of year.