The news today has been overflowing (rightly so) with coverage marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and sitting there watching the footage of the dwindling number of veterans, many weighed down with medals and walking with canes, started me thinking. Thinking about the lives lost throughout the war but especially on that day, on those beaches. Watching the old footage of the landings listening to the accounts of the carnage I tried to achieve the impossible, empathy.
I wanted to imagine what it was like, what thoughts would be going through my head if I were one of the first off the boat and naturally my reaction was fear, I mean how could it be anything other?! Running headlong into enemy territory with nothing but sticks to combat stones; the memories of friends and loved one’s simultaneously driving you on and pulling you back as shell’s decimate the earth you once stood upon and bullets tear within inches of your path; the noise alone must have been like nothing on earth. Soaked in water and blood and laden with equipment navigating barbed wire and bodies with names and faces, no time to think….no time to be scared no time to feel fear.
It’s not unusual to ask ‘why?’ these men would do such a thing as to put themselves through such unimaginable pain and anguish and, although the individual story’s vary, the answer is the same. It was the right thing to do. One opinion expressed on the news today was that it (WW2) was ”the last JUST war” and to some perhaps that is/was reason enough to literally throw yourself at death. As I sat there watching and listening my attempt at empathy waded its way through itself leaving me with a new and stranger feeling of Envy.
I know that sounds strange and wrong and I don’t wish to seem dis-respectful but put simply I envy those men because they have something I fear is lost to myself. Absolute faith. Be it for ‘God’, King and country, democracy, families or friends those men, each and every one of them, believed in something so strongly that they were ready and willing to lay down their own life to protect it. Although we may be willing few (if any) of us will ever know what it feels like to stake our own existence upon such a thing.
Only the ultimate sacrifice can claim the ultimate reward, dead or alive the few who gave so much will always have pride and self-respect, they will forever hold their heads high and be remembered.