My grandfather did not die in World War 2. He served as a mechanic in the Air Force, in North Africa and surrounds. That is all I know. And in his later years, I would hear him wheezing, although I never knew him to smoke. He had emphysema, in part from the work he did on the aeroplanes. It wasn’t what killed him, but it was a price that he paid. Not every wound ends in a gravestone. And living on can sometimes be the greater sacrifice.
“There are no unwounded soldiers in war” – someone on Twitter. I read that this week, and it resonated. I think of my uncle, still very much alive. A kind and generous man, conscripted on the edge of adulthood to serve in the war that wasn’t. We lived in South Africa, and I remember him coming through the door in his uniform, with that dark look in his eyes. He was my uncle, but he saw things that no young man deserves to see. And he didn’t have a choice. I suspect it still haunts him. I want to say I’m sorry, but I don’t know how.
I will remember all those who have yet to step up to the battlefield, yet to make their sacrifice. Those who stand on the edge of the recruiting office and think, “Am I brave enough? Am I strong enough? Will I be able to live with myself if I do this? Will I be able to live with myself if I do not?” I know that war is inevitable – men’s hearts are too evil for it to be otherwise. I know that suffering and sacrifice follows. I know that we need men and women to stand at that frontline and defend us from tyranny. But I am sad, and I am sorry that it must be so.
So I will remember you.