Every year (since I married my very own hero - don't tell him I referred to him as such) on the second Sunday of November, we observe Remembrance Sunday. This is to commemorate the contribution of both British and Commonwealth soldiers in the last two World Wars and also later conflicts.
Growing up back home in Fiji, both my paternal and maternal grandfathers would attend the Remembrance Day parade in the capital city. I have on occasion been to a few with my paternal grandfather but as a spoilt, obnoxious and clearly ignorant youth, I saw no point in being there with these great men. I've now come to appreciate why they were (and what it meant) to be called the Men of the Empire. You see, I grew up in the decades of Roxette, Footloose and of course Young Talent Time. War for me was not something I even related to. I now regret not taking the time to actively listen to the stories that my grandfathers used to recount about their experiences and because of this I now take the time to educate my own children about the sacrifices that were made by those who put their lives on the line for their fellow countrymen. Those who ultimately paid the price with their own lives and also the repurcussions of nations at war and the price that the everyday citizen has to pay because of it.
My paternal grandfather who I spent a considerable amount of time with and to whom I owe the love of the English language and creative writing to, was a military officer and also a school teacher. He was one of the founding members of a technical college that was set up in the part of Fiji I am from. I never used to understand why he took so much pride in recounting the days of his being a loyal servant to the monarchy of a nation so far away from where our island home was or why he always reminded us that the privileges we were growing up with was not something that was to be taken for granted. I took these privileges that his hardwork and achievements accorded me as something I was entitled to. The privileges of being able to be educated and to add to that, have the choice to be educated in a private school was also another thing that I took as something that was just the norm. My parents both worked full-time "white-collar" jobs that again allowed me the lifestyle to be able to experience multicultural social circles and at the same time encourage me to freely express my views and opinions on anything and everything to be quite honest. Something that I used to believe was my right regardless of how it made the recipient of my views feel, but now have come to understand through life lessons learnt the hard way that, that freedom comes with a responsibility. I have also come to appreciate and live up to the phrase, "on the shoulders of giants of whom we stand" - That right there should stir even the most blase of us millennials into appreciating the sacrifices that our forefathers made so that we can live the lives we enjoy today.
So back to present day, where my family and I proudly stand beside our serving soldier on Remembrance Sunday year in, year out and it's made me reflect on how the rights & privileges that we as a family (and I might even bravely venture forth and say a nation) enjoy, was brought about by the selfless sacrifices made by the brave men and women who choose to serve and also those who are no longer with us. For someone who now has a personal stake in the lives of those brave heroes, I am saddened when they are thrown into the proverbial fire by those who are against war or those who speak out and belittle these heroes because of their own beliefs. Yes, I am completely for the freedoms of choice and that it is the beauty of democracy, that it allows our views to be aired as and when we see fit, but most times I personally feel that the responsibility that comes with these freedoms that we are accorded with is sometimes ignored. I leave you today with a favourite poem of mine titled, It Is The Soldier, which was written by an American WWII veteran, Charles Province and it goes,
It is the Soldier, not the minister Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organiser Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
With love always,