Tuesday, 11 November 2008

For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

Today was Remembrance Day in the UK and after a week of thinking about where I stand on this I found myself standing on the steps of the Town Hall on this terribly cold day with elderly veterans of World War Two, schoolchildren and the Mayor amongst others.

I am never sure about buying the poppy for myself and my children because the proceeds of the poppies sold for this day go to assist the families of soldiers killed and injured in wars today (Iraq and Afghanistan) and this makes me wonder if I am doing the right thing.

But I thought about the men who gave their lives over the last hundred years for us and about how my people made their contribution also and deserve to be remembered. I thought about my grandfather thrashing about in the jungles of Burma in a blind panic, half-starved, looking for his younger brother and thinking about what he will tell his mother has happened to him (they found each other in the end). I thought about my husband’s grandfather driving trucks for the army in Italy, teaching himself to read so that he could write home and let his mother know he was still alive. I thought of my husband’s uncle, one of five brothers who all fought and were awarded vast tracts of land in Multan by the British who were impressed that all five sons in the family had enlisted and fought. I thought of the old man my mum told me about from her little village in the Punjab who ended up almost starved to death in a POW camp in Germany and could never forgot what happened to him.

I know a lot of Muslim’s would disagree with my decision to stand before these steps and join in the two minutes of silence. Whereas I cried whilst watching the memorial service on Sunday, one of my dad’s friends was visiting and turned around and asked why we cared – “they are not Muslims that died!” Little Lady was listening and piped up “But my mummy says her granddad was in the war, and daddy’s granddad.”

From left to right: English Muslim World War I Heroes: Gunner Azeez Leadon, Pte Mubarak Ballard, & Gunner Basheer Camp

So I stood this morning and felt the tears escape against my will when the bugle called the Last Post and the clock chimed eleven. An old soldier read out the haunting words of John Maxwell Edmonds inscribed on the famous Kohima Epitaph:

"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"

and the old men stood to attention as if back on duty again this day. The flag-bearers lowered their flags and the children fidgeted and everyone felt proud and tearful and sombre.

In Flanders fields.
by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

1 comment:

  1. Like you I remember the lives lost in the war, but as a Canadian I have many reasons to pause especially as a Muslim woman, first I have the chance to practice Islam in freedom, second my gradfathers, fought for me to have this right, and more recently I lost a really good friend who was killed in Afghanistan. What I really find a shame is not remebering, and for Muslims who say they werent Muslim, do we know if they were calling on God with thier last breath? We dont. And what is with all the Muslim on Muslim killing??