There are people who no longer donate to the Poppy Appeal at this time of year in exchange for one of the small red flowers. It seems a shame to hold onto some small change simply because you do not agree with the idea of a 'war on terror'. As a nation we have always treated our soldiers shabbily on their return from war. Every soldier from every war from the First World War to the current conflicts in Afghan and other places do not return as heroes but as men who are often broken physically and mentally. It is easier to avert our eyes to not make contact either through shame or embarrassment and for those men it must seem as if nobody wants to know let alone understand.
My personal experience of contact with ex-military is that very often they are suspicious of civilians, simply because those of us who never get closer to the 'action' than the six o'clock news can't possibly understand what it is all about. The recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced an unprecedented number of films and television series allowing us the opportunity of experiencing war from our living rooms, everything from the Green Zone to the Hurt Locker, Restrepo to Generation Kill has taken us there and at the same time allowed us to keep our distance.
Whatever our political beliefs we do owe it to those who are fighting wearing British uniforms to support them as individuals, the follies of politicians are not the fault of those who are being killed in our collective name.
Fate again bows its ugly young head,
as two more pine coffins carry two more brave dead,
two union jacks and the streets neatly lined,
two more proud mothers, their grief intertwined.
One was from England the other a Scot,
they both died for each other whether you knew it or not.
Well why did they go there, for the glory? The tan?
Or to protect the defenceless and to come back a man.
The uniform they wore, like a statement of our time.
It says they were different, perhaps two of a kind?
Nah just young lads in the Army, there are plenty around,
but these two now heroes, for they rest in the ground.
The same ground which you walk on when you shout and you scream,
about murder and invasion in the pay of the Queen.
Well let me just ask you, as you stand and you shout,
what freedom of speech, is really about?
When a woman is hanged, for humming a song,
when an infant is beaten for crying so long.
Does it make us lads evil for ending these crimes?
For leaving our own children to give those people our time?
When an Islamist shouts about the Infidel,
he knows he’s no true Muslim and Allah knows this as well.
To beat on your women, to rape young boys after tea,
are no things that any almighty can wish to be.
For a middle class student, from here or a foreign state,
to call a working class soldier scum, makes me more than irate.
Your own rights of freedom are paid by us scum,
who stand up against evil, in front of hells guns.
We’ve seen many things that would bring you to tears
whilst some of us have only been alive eighteen years.
So next time you start, with your rights to rant,
try and study our eyes, and I’ll bet that you can’t.
Behind them lie horrors that you’ll never see,
and the reason you won’t is the soldier like me.
James T Clark
James Clark, is a Trooper of the Household Cavalry. He sends this note. “I wrote this a month after the death of my friend Cpl Johnathan "Woody" Woodgate, when I encountered some protesters shouting abuse outside an Army recruitment office. One of the protesters couldn't speak English and I was moved by both anger and sorrow to write this, and I wish every one of those protestors would read it.”