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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Memories of Remembrance Day

When I was a little girl, I first became aware of Remembrance Sunday during eleven o'clock Mass.

The menfolk would leave mass early on hearing the Remembrance Day parade pass the church. I used to sit with my storybook on the church pew (I always had to be bribed to go to church)and feel very left out. I could not understand why I could join my Dad and go wherever they were all heading.

I think I was around 11 years of age when my parents said I could go with my Dad on the Remembrance Day Parade. Better still, my Mum allowed me to wear my maternal grandfather's medals from the First World War. I wore them with such pride that day. I felt like I had arrived.

We walked to Crow Nest Park where the cenotaph was located. I imagine some prayers were said but all I remember very well is standing next to my Dad with my chest puffed out so proud of my late grandfather. I knew he had served in the Connaught Rangers and had his leg injured at Gallipoli. I felt so grown up that day.

In later years, there was the sad sight as the Cenotaph got vandalised. Life got harsher with things long held dear being disrespected. It was incredibly hurtful to the older members of the community and even as a teenager, I could sense long-held traditions shifting.

Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are terrible, they do seem to have generated a new interest in respecting our service and ex-service community. It is important too to acknowledge the sacrifices of wives, children and the wider family units too. The service people choose their careers, the families live with the consequences.

For those who don't know, people who leave the services often struggle to integrate into society. Some end up in debt, some on the streets and some in prison. Many struggle to find work especially in these recession-hit times.

Where does your Poppy money go? It might put a service family back on their feet reducing stress levels and saving relationships. It might put a roof over an ex-service person's head. It might buy essential equipment for ill and disabled ex-service people perhaps asking for help in their eighties for the first time in their lives.

Wear your poppy to remember those who gave their lives in an attempt to make the world a better place.

Be generous when you buy your poppy (and make sure you do) knowing that without your help, welfare support from the Royal British Legion is under threat. With an ageing population and new casualties of recent wars, your help is needed more than ever.

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