We should all honour all those of all nations who fought and died on D- Day. But we should also remember all the combatants AND civilians from all nations who have fought, died and been affected by any conflicts before and since. And the best way to honour them is by ensuring that no-one suffers in this way ever again. We should all work for world peace.
No, it is not easy. But if we all start in a small way, join together and teach our children that peace is the way and aggression is wrong - we will get there one day. To those who scoff at my avowed Pacifism I can only say if everyone did the same as I and all my fellow pacifists - who would have fired the cannons, who would now shoot the guns or drop the bombs? The many thousands amongst whom I marched on the Stop the War marches in the 2000s, numbers that were repeated world wide showed the willingness to try to solve problems without warfare.
A comment that has stuck in my mind for so many years was made by a soldier who fought in the First World War in a TV programe which I watched about thirty years ago. Before that war, he had been a trade unionist and he said that he and his fellow trade unionists had never believed that such a war would happen because working men from one country would never take arms agains working men from another country. Sadly that proved not to be true and the speaker found himself fighting against men exactly like himself, just born in a different country and speaking a different language who were carrying out the consequences of their leaders failure to agree. There are so many books and TV programmes about the causes of the First World War available in this one hundredth anniversary year, yet how many fighting under any flag duing 1914 - 1918 really understood the breakdown of the causes: the house of cards that fell due to the intricate alliances between countries that meant that more and more were 'sucked' into the conflagration that gradually was named 'The Great War' and after 1945 'The First World War'?
Two Harrys who served in World War One should be consulted on their feelings about the effect of wars and their aftermath to both soldiers and civilians :
The first Harry is Harry Patch who died in 2011- often referred to as the 'last fighting Tommy' because he lived until he was 111 and was the last man alive to have fought in the trenches. Here is a quote from him:
"When the war ended, I don't know if I was more relieved that we'd won or that I didn't have to go back. Passchendaele was a disastrous battle – thousands and thousands of young lives were lost. It makes me angry. Earlier this year, I went back to Ypres to shake the hand of Charles Kuentz, Germany's only surviving veteran from the war. It was emotional. He is 107. We've had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it's a licence to go out and murder. Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn't speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that?" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_PatchThere is a book available written by Harry Patch, The Last Fighting Tommy
The next Harry is: Harry Leslie Smith - who is aged ninety one. He is a veteran of the second world war, when he was a fighter pilot. His latest book:
Harry's Last Stand: How the world my generation built is falling down, and what we can do to save it looks at the world he and others believed they fought the war to achieve and how it is being eroded by present day politicians like Nigel Farage and the coalition government. A quote from this Harry:
‘As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it…’
[I will not go gently into that good night is a reference to the Dylan Thomas poem Do not go gentle into that Good Night*. Very apt as it is Thomas' centenary this year too]
Lastly two quotes from the Old and New Testaments. It doesn't matter what religion or none one holds, the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are pretty good guides for life, I always think!
Thou shalt not kill 6th Commandment, Exodus 20:13
Blessed are the Peacemakers Matthew 5:9
and one from Albert Einstein
Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding
A few ideas for us all!