Today, 6 June 2019, nonogenarians on both sides of the Atlantic remember and honour their erstwhile comrades in the Normandy landings 75 years ago. Veterans of the American, British, French, Canadian and German armies, air forces and navies, among others, attest to the resolve, commitment and courage of young men facing one of the most stressful tests individual human beings ever confront.
As they do so it is right and fitting that we – those who enjoy the freedoms so hard won – should take pause and reflect a while on what we have done with their legacy. It is, perhaps, particularly appropriate that those of us in the defence media take the opportunity to remind ourselves of the important nature of the domains of which we write and broadcast.
We live in a world increasingly characterised by generalism, populism and the ephemeral. Attention spans are now measured in seconds, the information superhighway has caused massive (not to say uncontrolled) proliferation in the publishing of opinion – often untrammelled by any appearance of critical analysis – and the values our forefathers held dear now bear little apparent relevance for current generations.
Such is the price of progress, perhaps. But the continuing focus of military authorities, in most cases backed by government and a substantial (though waning) slice of public opinion, on acts and ceremonies of remembrance is essential – and must never be allowed to lie fallow. Some may scoff and say the past is best forgotten. The problem with the past is that, if it believes it has been forgotten, it has an unfortunate habit of biting the least well-guarded portion of the anatomy.
As we gird our loins to continue to observe, analyse and report on the issues confronting those responsible for our safety and security, it behoves us to remember – and report – the consequences of failure on their and our parts. This writer vividly remembers a senior officer’s comment to him over thirty years ago. “If you want to find somebody committed to peaceful resolutions of conflict – ask a soldier.”
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
For the Fallen – Laurence Binyon