It’s been hard work writing this post.
On the 4th June 1940, the last day of the Dunkirk rescues, my Grandad and his best friend swam out to sea amid firing and desperate chaos to meet a boat which would take them home after days stranded on a death riddled beach in fear, wondering if they will ever get home and see their families and their beloved country again.
My Grandad climbed aboard and went to pull his best friend from the sea. He was told there was no more room on the craft and that he had to let go of his friend’s hand.
He never saw his best friend again.
My lovely Grandad lived with that story on his mind his entire life and only told us when he was on his deathbed. Such a sad and tragic story to live with. He was one of many.
This story makes me cry, still, even though I have thought about it and heard it told many times since my Grandad died 16 years ago.
I’ve always been interested and dare I say it passionate about the plights of those in the first and second world wars and the events and stories that come from those periods. I guess the knowledge that my Grandad fought in the Second World War gave me an added emotional interest in that period and the above story allows me a slightly deeper understanding of the tragedy of it all. After all, to see one you love suffer, from anything, including a memory is a difficult thing and stays with you in a more profound way than just another anecdotal story.
In addition to the anniversary of Dunkirk this month has also seen us celebrate the World Cup and once again raise our patriotic interest in an achievement for our country. It strikes me that as being rather odd that *I* enjoy football. I’m not exactly the typical, average football fan and I rarely if ever watch club football, I have no interest. However, when England are playing I can quite happily and passionately enjoy it. I also feel the same when England play cricket and although I don’t understand Rugby at all I feel a sense of pride when I hear they have won a game.
My interest in major tournament football and other international sports events and the passion they arouse in me stems from my need and desperate desire to celebrate my patriotism. To acknowledge that feeling that I believe those who fought or suffered through our wars had and understood.
I want to feel pride in our beautiful country and what we achieve and what we have achieved in the past that anything that illustrates our achievements calls out to me as interesting, watchable and followable. This said, I feel this country is at odds with its patriotism. For many years, probably all of my life, England hasn’t really understood what it is to be patriotic and how to celebrate its pride in the country. We try and we desperately hang on to sport to show these unnurtured feelings but we lack the ability to wear our patriotism on our sleeve and show others what our country is about and what it means to us on a day to day basis.
I often hear the dismissal of other countries that have an evident and strongly held patriotism as ‘up themselves’, ‘arrogant’, ‘mislead’ or just downright ‘annoying’. I hear such comments about countries like France, America, Scotland and Ireland all the time but actually I think we’re a little jealous of these nations and their patriotism. They understand what it means to be French, American, Scottish or Irish, god darn it, I feel that WE understand what it means to be French, American, Scottish or Irish but we don’t for the life of us know what it means to be English – why is that?
I don’t know. I would love to understand it better.
In my opinion patriotism is so important. It got us through the Blitz you know?! *ironic snigger* But seriously, as often as we hear that I am sure it so true. Somehow, back then, in the early 1940′s when our country was being annihilated, we learnt to understand patriotism, to believe in it, to pull together and to be a country. We understood that our men were fighting for theirs and their families lives.
I guess if something is threatening and destroying your homeland literally it is easy to find your patriotic spirit and reason to fight. The trouble is that sometimes we need our patriotic spirit to be evident when we’re not fighting a battle on our own land or other than on England match days.
There is historical evidence that this country has always been this way. If it’s not happening where we can see and feel it we prefer to ignore it and just get on.
I want to remind you all today that we don’t just need to display our patriotism for our lads playing football, cricket, rugby or any other sport but also for our brave, gallant and truly incredible men today fighting a dreadful war in Afghanistan and DIEING. Yes, they’re dieing and all of those dieing are husbands, boyfriends, fathers, sons, brothers and friends. They’re adored, loved and needed by their families and friends yet they have chosen to fight a war for our country.
I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not we should have troops fighting that war. Lets face it war is never a good thing, never a wanted thing but sometimes a necessary thing whether those of us at home believe it or not. You believe me when I say that those fighting in Afghanistan today DO believe in their country, they ARE fighting for their country, for their Queen and most definitely for their families. They are patriotic and survive to come home to a country they love.
Why is it that this country comes to a standstill when England is playing a football match but when 18 soldiers die during one week of war, a war they are fighting for our country, very little is said? I know there were celebrations yesterday for our forces but they were massively overshadowed by the World Cup coverage and barely noticed by most people.
Maybe I am wrong, maybe we are all aware of our brave men, maybe we do acknowledge them, maybe we are proud of them, maybe we will support them when they come home and take off their uniforms, maybe we will never forget. I fear that we don’t do any of those things enough and that we do forget all too easily.
We aren’t given the means to show of our support for them other than through the odd tweet. We’re not being asked to provide anything for them as a nation and we are not being asked to sacrifice anything for them as a nation. We SHOULD do SOMETHING.
There is a wonderful charity called SOS (Support our Soldiers). Show your patriotism by doing something simple yet amazing for our guys in Afghanistan. See a list of things you can do here . Many of my wonderful friends on here are more than capable of writing a letter of support, sending a care package or sending a handmade card. There is something on here that every one of us can do to show our support. Do your good deed this week and send something to our troops.
I’m not sure what I am going to do but I am going to do something and I’ll let you know what.
18 British soldiers lost their precious lives in Afghanistan last week. May they rest in peace and forever be in our hearts.
May we never forget.
PS – I don’t know anyone fighting in Afghanistan at the moment. I know many who have been but they are fortunately home and safe for the time being. If you are reading this and you know someone out there who would appreciate a care package please leave their name in the comments section so that I and others can address our parcels to them as they need to be sent to named personnel – thank you xx
*I don’t know the credit for this photograph but would like to add it if anyone does