Lest We Forget

by Casey O’Brien Machado

Today is November 11th – Remembrance Day. It’s a day when many Australians will pause for a minute’s silence to remember those who have passed in the service of their country. At 11am, school halls will go relatively silent, some workplaces will cease to echo the sounds of typing, and the PA systems in some shopping centres will go quiet for sixty seconds.

What exactly is it that you will be remembering today? Is it a person you knew? Is it images from a war movie or documentary you’ve seen? Or is it personal recollections of life in service?

Remembrance Day is observed in Commonwealth countries on the anniversary of the end of the hostilities of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, physical violence between those countries engaged in World War I officially ceased, and a year later King George V designated it a day of remembrance of those who had been killed in active service in the war.

Acknowledgement of lives lost in combat and combat-like situations is ingrained into our society, and Australia has a rich heritage of remembering our passed servicemen and women well. No matter what your opinion on our engagement in past wars and conflicts, it is important that we remember that countless men and women have died in the name of service of country. The loss in some conflicts has been so great that Gertrude Stein and Ernst Hemmingway referred to those lost as “generation au feu” – The Lost Generation – and argued that during World War I, many countries lost “the most intelligent, virile and creative members of the younger generation”[1]. It is a good thing for us as a society, and as individuals, to look back and remember the sacrifice made by many. It is a good thing to be thankful for the lives of those who we have lost in service.

It is also a good thing for us to bring our minds back to today and think of those who are currently serving. Even today, as you read this article, men and women are putting their lives on the line in the Australian Defence Forces. As you click back onto Facebook or your emails, men and women will continue to take part in combat, often unsure if they will make it out of such situations. As November 11th comes to an end and you wake up on November 12th for yet another normal day, families will continue to hope that their loved ones who are serving will be home soon. The days of war are far from over and as each day passes, some in our defence forces are returning to Australia with new memories and experiences which will alter the way they live their day to day lives. The effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and related illnesses are deep and debilitating, and many of our returned servicemen and women experience such effects every day. Many suffer through such illnesses with little support – governmental or otherwise – resulting in a group of ‘living casualties’ who need our support more than ever. As a country, and as a society, we simply must do better at supporting those living with such illnesses.

My question is this – do we do as well at remembering and acknowledging those who are currently serving and those who have returned with their lives irrevocably altered? When we remember those who have passed, do we choose to forget the fact that there are some still serving, some still suffering and some still passing? The purpose of Remembrance Day is not simply to remember with fondness those who have passed, but to keep fresh in our minds the atrocity and horror of war so as to avoid such loss in the future.

As Jesus told us in the parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 19:1-9), we must continue to pray. We must cry out to Him “day and night” for those who cannot cry out for themselves. We must continue to bring before God those who have served, those who continue to serve and those who feel the effects of having served. We must pray for politicians around the world who make decisions on national security and warfare.

This Remembrance Day and every day, let’s pay tribute to and give thanks for those who have served. Let’s pray for those who continue to serve. And let’s hope for a future world where there are less to remember.

[1] Winter, J., ‘Britain’s “Lost Generation” of the First World War’, Population Studies, vol. 31, no. 3, 1977, pp. 449-466.

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