Criticise the war as much as you like, but don’t you dare lambaste our troops…
July 23, 2010
Every soldier has a unique reasons for enlisting. Ask some, and you will understand.
Whether it was to escape a broken home as a boy soldier at 16, a childhood friendship pact to go together, a result of the recession, a dream to fly, a failure by our education system resulting in no other viable alternative, a need to provide for a young family in hard times, a sense of duty, family tradition, the desire for travel and tough physical exercise, childhood ambition, a want of comradeship, a love of adrenaline rushes, the good pension or a wish to lead men, every soldier signed up with a reason. Rarely will you find one who will tell you the reason he applied was because he whole heartedly agreed with the political decisions of our current government in power and a desire to act upon their every whim.
Soldiers are not allowed to speak out if they disagree with the war. Soldiers cannot take part in anti-war demonstrations. Soldiers are given the phrases we hear them sometimes ineloquently deliver to waiting television cameras as they alight from coaches within their garrisons at the end of a six month tour. They mean what they say in the sense that they believe it. They are not stupid however, they know exactly why they say what they say; to retain unity in their ranks, a belief in a common purpose – a belief that these deaths are not in vain. From the Oxbridge educated Captains with first class degrees to the Generals who worked their way up from scratch, the army is instilled with the belief that no matter where they go, they go together. As one.
These men and women are husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, boyfriends, girlfriends, fiances or fiancees. They have best friends, a dog perhaps, a dodgy uncle, a smelly cat, an irritating ex and a nosy nextdoor neighbour. TA soldiers have normal civilian work colleagues (you never know, Alan who fixes the photocopier may exchange his tired shirt and trousers for a salad suit and sniper rifle at the weekend) and your local GP or hospital nurse may have been out in the field in Afghanistan applying tourniquets to soldiers who have just had a limb blasted off by an IED. They laugh, they joke, they cry and weep. They are trying to stop smoking, leave an abusive partner, or restrain an expensive desire for Jimmy Choo shoes. They are not politically motivated. Without question, they will go wherever they are needed.
If we were at war with a huge super-state tomorrow, these are the people we would hide behind. They are the ones, like those brave men and women who protected our country so valiantly in the two World Wars, who would sacrifice themselves for our freedom. They did not choose to go to Iraq, they did not ask to go to Afghanistan, but they willingly fly in at a moment’s notice to obey their commanders in battle. They are but humans, not heroes.
Do not sit in the ivory tower of your air conditioned, open plan office (third floor, past the kitchen, cubicle on the left), reclining back in your adjustable chair, leaning on your wrist support (there to prevent an RSI, of course) and criticise our Armed Forces to your colleagues, when they are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Mock the politicians’ greed as you will, but do not denounce the men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of our country. Unless you have been in the heat of battle, adrenaline surging through your veins, making decisions faster than you can normally think, you can never understand the real reason our troops do what they do. They do it because they are born to do it, trained to excel at it and desire more than anything never to let their colleagues down.
As the guest of honour at my sibling’s officer graduation said… “look at the man on your left, then look at the woman on your right. They are the reason you fight”
Support our troops, even if you do not support the war.