Service, and gratitude
The Government might not know what it means to serve, except that is, to self-serve, but apparently some of the good people of Great Britain do.
This picture is from the BBC web-site and shows a homecoming parade for soldiers just returned from sharp-end operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We know that the treatment of our military here in the UK is an utter disgrace - but then it was always so. Not without good reason do I reference Kipling in my strap-line at the top of this page and it's worth reading what he had to say from the perspective of the soldier, "Tommy Atkins".
It's not so different for police in terms of the total absence of any gratitude from Parliament, and not only soldiers and police who are treated contemptuously by our so-called leaders (the average expenses and bonuses of each one of our politicians would fund 4 extra police officers per year, 6 paramedics or 10 private or equivalent ranked soldiers, not even including the MPs' fat-cat salaries, subsidised dining [don't see many skinny politicians, do you?] company directorships, TV appearances and feathered-nest retirement deals). So it's clear who they think are most important, and it certainly isn't the little guys and gals putting their lives on the line for their country! At least nobody's tried to shoot me recently, not for a good while anyway, and I have the greatest respect for what our military in all of the arms, do for us, because I really don't know how they do it.
The tree-hugging, woolly-jumpered, bed-wetting, hippy soap-dodgers might not like the war; some clean, principled people with actual jobs don't like it either. But we all live in a country whose freedoms were won by people like those marching through Winchester to the cheering crowds. I'm pretty uncomfortable with the war, as it's been subverted by business interests of the Bush tribe and their cronies, but the people out there are fighting on behalf of our country, doing what I lack the courage to do, by and large honourably.
I see youths out pissing around on the housing estates I patrol every day, in suspended childhood, jobless (unless you count running for the local dealers) and expecting everyone to owe them a living, giving nothing, hands outstretched for welfare and what everyone else can do for them, always expecting extrinsic solutions to their pathetic problems. Then I see youths of the same age, but who are men, and women, growing up probably quicker than they ought to, but with pride, courage and honour.
I love the film, A Few Good Men and watching the fall of the tragic (in the classical sense) hero of Colonel Jessep. However flawed a character he is, and however much he deserves his comeuppance at the end, this character says some things that unnerve me, and here is one:
"...we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. [...] And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.
You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honour, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it.
I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post"
So when you're thinking about slagging off our soldiers, air force and naval personnel and whining about how Saddam just needed a big hug, how the war was all about oil (then drive somewhere using that oil), do remember that talk is cheap, but putting yourself on the line for others actually takes something intrinsic and strong.
And then just say thank-you, and go on your way.
Cheers boys and girls, men and women - I'll buy you a beer any day.