My daughter's class is studying WW2 during this term at school. As my father served as part of the RAF during that time I thought it would be useful to share his story. My purpose was to show what life was like from the perspective of an individual whose job was to fight. After compiling the presentation from an objective and fact based perspective I reflected further. I share here some thoughts that came to me as a result of this exercise.When asked about the war (WW2), my dad did not often comment. He preferred instead to let the memories stay in a drawer with the memorabilia. For him war was not something to be glorified, embellished nor esteemed through a propaganda PR machine. No it was a duty, an act of conscious responsibility, in service to the community of people we lived within.
There were no sides when lives were lost. There were no sides when land, buildings and whole towns were decimated. It was a loss for all. Yet at the time there seemed to be only one answer – defend, fight and end the aggression being perpetrated unsolicited on free living countries and people.
At a higher level the heroics did not lie in the grand gestures but the day to day commitment of a collective group of men and women who willingly gave their time, years of their life and in many cases their lives for the benefit of a greater good. We are all living here today free and in a better place because the atrocities were ended. Yet at what cost?
The sad fact though in reflection is that atrocities occurred on both sides. No on denies this. The taking of a life on either side is not justified on any level. For many in charge they found ways to justify their actions. It is important to not forget, but not put on a pedestal the act of war.
So it is from this perspective that my father’s legacy can be remembered. He followed through and served his country and the world through a sense of responsibility and duty when the time came. For him this was a non negotiable no wavering choice.
The idea of a war was not one taken lightly. In hindsight we all wondered whether there was another way, any other way. Perhaps. But then have we learned from this? Do we now think twice before stepping into conflict? Do we now think before we ever send men and woman into conflict?
Surely there is a deep recognition of the risk, commitment and sacrifice. And there is an even greater desire to get an outcome to be the way a side wants it. Today though the question is really who is the enemy? It is not as defined. The other question is why and what are we fighting for? This is the legacy of WW2 and all wars which still to this day has yet to result in a situation of no conflict.
So my dad is now a statistic, a war veteran like many others. He was lucky not be anything else – POW, wounded, casualty. Many are in the latter. Amongst all of this conflict, for every man and woman involved, there is a circle of people around that person. All are affected. We are also the storytellers to keep the memory alive to remind us that war is not something to continue.
Today if such a war of this nature erupted would we handle it the same way? Would my dad still volunteer? I imagine so. Do any of the wars waged since come close? Not so sure. For me every war is a blight on the record of humanity, no matter the reason nor side. We do not have to keep resorting to conflict of this scale to solve our problems. Surely there must be another way.
Surely the legacy of war is to try harder not to have conflict, but to create peace. Don’t we at least owe our veterans this commitment?
Do we not have a higher duty to humanity to strive for a better way?
Our shared destiny is to be one humanity, not a divided people fighting continuously to be right so the other is wrong.
Where does this attitude shift change?
With you now!