By Mike Payne
At Remembrance I rarely hear what is in my heart.
I do hear lots of people say they talk on my behalf. But they do not.
Had I been killed in Northern Ireland I would want my voice to heard at this time of Remembrance.
This is my voice.
I remember all those who served and died.
For those who hated the war, hated what they were being forced to do yet did so out of duty, of being caught up in a collective power beyond their control.
For those who wore their service like a pair of old boots, with fondness and pride.
For those caught between another’s sectarian hatred.
For those who despite their soul ripping fear stood up in their trench, and fought and died.
For those too exhausted to fight anymore.
For those who fought so long they had no fight left and just let themselves linger too long in the line of fire.
For those who broke and hid.
For those who fought hard.
For those whose time was more a whimper than a bang.
For those who became disillusioned.
For those who lost sight of themselves and their humanity within the inhumanity which became their new norm. “I am in blood Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
Who later killed themselves rather than live a half life of guilt.
For those left behind during a retreat knowing their life blood was dripping away and fought on so others could have a chance to live.
For those begging to be killed seeking release from the agony of their wounds.
For those waiting in the aid post having just been told others have priority, yet still thanking those who could not help and quietly and graciously meeting death.
For those seeing and meeting inevitable death with confusion, rage, despair, acceptance, relief, fear…
For those who killed themselves in quiet places when the booze could no longer hide the knowing that part of their soul was left alongside those who died; for the memories of those they loved and died, for the loved ones that they knew they in turn killed.
For those whose heart was broken.
For those who never fully returned.
For the women and families left behind, bereaved, soul withered.
I remember the war poets. A picture of Wilfred Owen hung on the wall of my Regiment’s Officers’ Mess, my home as a young man.
I remember so all these voices can be heard.
I remember all of the dead.
Because they would want those living to be fully alive.
That is their wish.
I remember, but I didn’t wear a Poppy this year.
11th November 2013
Mike Payne is former serviceman who now works supporting men and women living with the wounds of armed conflict. For more information visit the unload website.
Also on insideMAN:
- The psychological damage that war does to men (Mike Payne)
- The soul of the war poet is lost in our branded approach to Remembrance (Mike Payne)
- All our articles on “men and war”