I’ve spent many days preparing for and teaching children and community groups about World War 1, as a social historian concentrating more on people’s stories, experiences and the impact that events had on communities rather than the military strategies and statistics. I’ve studied the stories of soldiers, their families, read diaries, letters and watched countless documentaries of veterans emotionally reliving their experiences in the trenches. I’ve been privileged enough to take oral histories from men and women who experienced the Second World War first hand, trying to remain professional whilst struggling to hold back tears as I’ve listened to the horrors that they’ve experienced or witnessed, the pain of their memories etched on their faces and still evident in their eyes. I spend hours deliberating the best and most respectful way to honour those who have fallen and those who are left behind, both in the workshops I hold and the exhibitions I curate.
Still though, nothing prepares you for when the loss becomes personal. To see the face of someone you know, have lived amongst and cared for appear on the television without warning or on the front page of the newspapers with the headline ‘Heroes Killed in Action’ is something you never forget. To wake up suddenly as your (now ex) husband has nightmares of the horrors he saw in Iraq and watch him crumble and lash out at sudden noises and flashbacks, without being able to do a thing as he tries to explain the scars he now bares. To know that you will never be able to understand and what you hear is only the tip of the iceberg. Yet, as painful as these experiences are we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who have so much to be thankful for and proud of, we are the ones who continue to sleep safely at night.
So to all those men and women who bravely gave their all for our freedom and security. Those who continue to serve our Queen and Country, those who may still be here but whose scars live with them, visible or invisible and to their families.
We shall not forget.
To Dale, Kyle, Kevin & Mac, may you forever Rest in Peace –