The lasting memory of war

Posted on: 05 February 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

For those involved, the memories of war last far longer than the conflict itself. Their sacrifice is the same now as it always has been but are we offering British servicemen and women the thanks and support they deserve on their return to the UK?

The programme covered the battle of Okinawa and the end and aftermath of the war after America and the Allies had dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan. For the civilians of the two bombed cities, Nagasaki and Hiroshima, there was devastation and horror! For the soldiers on both sides who died during these terrible times there was little more than a war grave.

The allied soldiers who survived went home to fanfares of victory while the Japanese returned in shame. What the programme went on to discuss was the effect of the war on the troops as civilians. Now of course the world is very different to the post war years some 65 years ago but the trauma the soldiers endure is the same today as it was then.

The four soldiers tracked to present time related their experiences as they came back heroes, their dreams and nightmares, the problems of adjusting to normal life and the hardship of making a living in Civvy Street!

Why was this so different to our soldiers now? Obviously we are more ‘tuned’ to the needs of our returning men and we live in a society that is more socially responsible but we still hear horror stories of how our troops are treated.

I think the biggest difference today is the wars we fight (remotely through our soldiers!) are not as monumental or as devastating the Great War and the Second World War. Yes, they are on TV and in the newspapers but they don’t affect us in the same way.

Our pace of life is faster and we are so busy with everything else we’re doing. We don’t make time to stop, think and reflect on what happens to a soldier who survives a modern war and comes home and tries to fit back in society. Do we really care?

Once the uniform comes off they are just blokes like the rest of us and they should get on with life! But I wonder what it’s like to dream every night about what you had to do and what was done to you? How do you handle the images imprinted on your mind of the smashed bodies of friends and comrades? The smell of war and death!

Maybe it’s time for us to say thank you in a different way than a march past the Cenotaph at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. There's not much we can do for the soldiers of past wars but we could start now with the returning troops of today’s wars! What do you think?

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