Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Last Post

"We will remember them". Young men (and I think its all men) who sacrificed their lives. And so we should. I wanted to contribute to the Telegraph Media Group's fundraising campaign to constuct a memorial to the men of Bomber Command. 55,573 were killed in action, almost half of those who flew operations over Nazi Germany and occupied Europe. Bravery that I can barely comprehend. Yes, we should honour them.

So this morning I arranged a coffee morning in Welshpool Town Hall, and invited anyone and everyone to join me. It was free, but there was a 'Donations' box. At 11.00, the Last Post was sounded by bugler, Ian Davies (also born to a Castle Caereinion farming family, but not a relative). Speeches were made by the Mayor, Anne Holloway and by local ex-serviceman, 86 year old John Gwilt, who is a longstanding friend and political non-sympathiser. I write that now, but didn't think of it all day. It was an event where political differences went unrecognised.

Its strange how the incredibly emotional sound of the Armistice Day bugle and the silence brings people together. Political differences are not so much insignificant as irrelevent. Its also strange that out of commemoration of the most awful tragedy, we find a pleasure and a pride midst the awe we sense at the scale of sacrifice. I've not served in the Armed Forces myself, but each year I appreciate more keenly the contribution made by so many others on my behalf. The box marked 'Donations' contained getting on for £200. I'll do the same thing next year.


Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn> when Dan Eisenberg (my business partner/lawyer) and I started up our wee law firm we rented a single room office in Arlington. We quickly found out we were within bugle distance of Arlington National Cemetery. At 10PM local time we heard 'music for the fallen', "Taps" is what someone called it. Honestly, there is nothing like it. The first time I heard Taps it took my breath away. I would leave the window open to hear the Taps.

During the day we sometimes heard an explosion - the first few times I heard the loud bang I expected to hear sirens and commotion coming up from the street, but people acted like nothing happened. Then I realized it was cannons being set off at funerals of men/women fallen in battle, I guess in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes there were lines of helicopters so I guess that meant a Marine was being buried (the U.S. Marines Base (called "Quantico") is in VA, about 20 miles or so roughly SW of Washington, DC), the base is so large it has its own airfield.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) moved from its base in Arlington to a new complex specially built for the USPTO in nearby Alexandria. So we upped sticks to follow the USPTO and rented another single office, but this time within walking distance of the USPTO. I missed hearing the Taps, I often opened the window out of habit forgetting we were now too far away to hear the music for the fallen. I missed hearing Taps, it did cause me to gulp a few times, but somehow it reminded me that I was now an American and somehow it felt right and proper to turn the radio down and hear the music for the fallen (I learnt that it is one of the special duties given to young trainee soldiers in the nearby barracks in Arlington).

Hearing the lines of helicopters, the haunting Taps at 10PM each night, the explosions of cannons in the day – it brings home to you just what sacrifice means. There are few things more sobering than driving your car along a highway lost in thought thinking about a case and a line of helicopters suddenly fly low over head – either flying to Arlington Cemetery or flying back to their base at Quantico.

It makes me so angry to read that Peter Black wrote such despicable cruel words about John McCain, a man who suffered greatly when he was shot down over Vietnam serving his country. If you read about the McCain family you will read about sacrifice and service to the United States of America. I read that John McCain’s father was at the signing of the Japanese surrender and died shortly thereafter. John McCain’s son is serving in Iraq. Whole generations of McCain’s have served and risked life and limb in service to their country … and there’s Peter Black ripping into McCain for the way he moves, for the way he uncomfortably supports his arms.

As a young man John McCain suffered horrible injuries to his limbs in service to his country. Shame on you Peter Black.

Anonymous said...

Glyn, one thought.
I honour the memory of the men that that fought. I also honour my mother's pacifist family- people who refused to fight but who worked hard to take in Jewish children from Germany and Austria before the war.The "conshies" too played their part and deserve remembrance.
I honour my pacifist grandparents who hated war and wouldn't fight but died in the Cardiff blitz acting as fire wardens. I honour all of that generation. No one should claim any of them. They
belong to us all.

Vaughan Roderick

Glyn Davies said...

Christopher - I'm not sure that Peter meant it quite like that - but I must admit that I didn't like it myself. In the end I wouldn't have voted McCain if I'd been a US voter - but I still think he's a truly special man. Perhaps his opportunity went in 2000.

Vaughan - I hope I've written no words that contradict your comment. I don't pretend that I can fully understand 'pacifism' because its not part of my own make-up - but I do not criticise people who take moral stands because they truly believe in them.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

It's got nothing to do with who won - the American people decided that on Nov 4, 2008.

Peter decided to criticise John McCain's hand movements AFTER November 4.

We can all look past and forgive, but after a proper apology and full retraction of those outrageous remarks.

Peter had plenty of time to give a proper apology but 'bounced back' with a conditional apology - that somehow he didn't know that McCain suffered injuries when held as a POW.

Up until he made those outrageous comments I quite liked Peter.

Anonymous said...

Quite a few interesting comment here, as regards conscientious objectors, I understand that many members of Plaid Cymru where conscientious objectors, and not on ground that they were pacifists. Although, didn't Saunders Lewis commit arson on MOD property just before the Second World War broke out?

I also understand that Saunders Lewis was against the influx of refugees from London during the Blitz? My paternal grandparents took in a couple of refuge children in their small terrace house in Corlanna, between Port Talbot and Cwmafan, my family have never lived down the shame.

Glyn Davies said...

christopher - I'm not fully enough briefed on what Peter Black has said - but I do think anyone mocking John McCain's arm movements is being insensitive. But this sort of thing usually does more harm to the person making the remarks - as your changed attitude towards Peter demonstrates.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

You know Glyn I much admired Peter Black - but on this he is totally wrong and must retract and properly apologise or face the gravest consequences to his political career. There will be no way the Liberal Democratic party can maintain any level of credibility if it fails to take action over this grave issue.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Does anyone realize in Wales that it was the Senior Senator from Arizona that re-opened the Pentagon mid-air refueling contract that Airbus (via EADS) later won (re: building wings at the N. Wales factory). The Senior Senator from Arizona is none other than John McCain, the former POW that Peter Black ridiculed on his blog for his ‘unnatural movements” for ‘break-dancing” with his arms.

In the USA it is regarded as extremely rude and totally unacceptable to ridicule a former POW for his awkward movements acquired while in service to the United States of America. Absent a clear unambiguous apology or sanction by the Welsh Liberal Democratic Party there is no way, no how that Peter Black’s awful commentary will go unnoticed in the USA.

Does anyone believe that Peter Black's appalling comments about the Senior Senator from Arizona and Peter Black/Welsh Lib Dem party not unambiguously apologizing for the awful comments is helpful to Wales?