A week of remembrance

This week has been a week of remembrance for myself and my family and I thought I’d take some time to reflect on it.

Last Sunday Dad and myself went down to the Remembrance Sunday Parade in Torquay. One of the many conversations we had that day was about how little either of us had expected Dad to see this year’s parade. Dad, for anyone who doesn’t know, is terminally ill with cholangiocarcinoma (Bile Duct Cancer). He has had this cancer for four years now and we were told not to expect him to live when he was first diagnosed, this has been repeated many times since and this time last year we did not expect him to live to Christmas – in fact my blog post from a year ago explains my feelings at the time. Dad is my definition of a fighter, he knows he isn’t ready to give up  his fight yet, and a recent blood transfusion has given him lots more energy and as much as I never assume anything these days, I’m quietly optimistic he’ll make Christmas 2011.

The photo is Dad (on the right) and his best mate Pete.

The remembrance didn’t just stop on Sunday though. Thursday saw myself and Mum travel to Wales to watch 1 Rifles receive the Freedom of Chepstow. My brother-in-law was one of the hundreds of soldiers who returned from their tour in Afghanistan in recent weeks and my earlier post Swift and Bold sums up some of my thoughts about my little sister, and all the other wives, husbands and partners who are left behind. About 500 members of 1 Rifles marched through Chepstow and there was quite a crowd gathered to acknowledge their efforts:

The Parade through Chepstow was followed by a Medals Parade back at their barracks, followed by refreshments, before Sounding Retreat and a Fireworks Display. One of the highlights of the parade had to be the Band and Bugles of the Rifles playing Lady Gaga’s Poker Face – if you click on the photo below you’ll be taken to the Audio Boo site where you can listen to this awesome performance:

All of that said, this post was meant to be about remembrance, and we found time to do that too. 1 Rifles lost five men on this tour of duty, one of them left behind a widow, Carla, who was pregnant at the time – she was at the parade with her beautiful young baby, who was born on L/Cpl Jon McKinlay’s birthday. Jon, was the former husband of my cousin, and Dad to her two children. He was also killed on this tour, and Megan and Oliver have raised nearly £2k in his memory. Thursday provided an opportunity to celebrate the safe return of the many, while remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I found myself thinking a lot about military life this week, and the sorts of people who choose that life path. I really admire them, I often think about how different my own life might have been if I’d gone down a similar path instead of opting for university and research, that said I don’t think I’d have coped particularly well with the discipline. I think the ability, and freedom, to question is pretty core to who I am and I don’t think I’d last long in a system where that wasn’t the norm. That in itself leaves me feeling even more in awe of those who do choose to join our Armed Forces, and the friends and family who support them to do so. The irony of that statement isn’t lost on me either – I know my own freedom to question, is upheld by the actions of those who have fought to maintain peace and freedom over the years.

On a lighter note, it also leaves me loving a new rendition of Lady Gaga – if you didn’t listen to it earlier, go on, click here, it’s worth it.

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