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Miltary Wives

December 20, 2011

This choir, put together for a tv show just as much as Little Mix were assembled for the X Factor, looks like being Christmas #1 with a mawkish public outpouring of what should be kept private.

This single, given an hour-long advertisement by the BBC the other night seems to be made up of the private thoughts of soldiers in Afghanistan sent home to their wives. Personally, if I sent back a message to someone I loved when about to go into hell, the last thing I’d want is for it to be commercially exploited, but I suppose consent must have been granted.

However, I balk at this received opinion that anything connected to the military must be supported no matter what its worth in and of itself.

It seems to stem from the view that all troops are “heroes” irrespective of whether they have displayed heroism.

The overuse of the word “hero” really irritates me as it actually cheapens the true heroism shown by a few.

The theatre of war gives more opportunities than most other walks of life to display heroism, but not every soldier is a hero, and not every soldier who is killed in the theatre of war is a hero. If they have dragged colleagues out from under sniper fire or from a burning vehicle then they are heroic, if they take a bullet or the force of a blast to save colleagues then they are a hero. Someone who is in a war and is simply shot by a sniper or blown up by a rocket attack is not displaying heroism. Their death should be mourned just as much as someone who has shown heroism, but simply being in the army doesn’t make them a hero.

I feel that the Government play on the general view of the ordinary soldier as “hero” to hide an unwinnable and unnecessary conflict behind. Anyone questioning the reasons behind the conflict is showing lack of support for “our boys” when it is the Government underfunding them and sometimes fatally underequipping them.

My grandad served for years in the British Legion, and I was proud of that and I completely support the work they do for servicemen and women and wear my poppy with pride on Rememberance Day, although I regret the ostentatiousness of its display for a whole month which seems to have entered public life.

Actually oftentimes it might be the heroism to battle through horrific injuries sustained in conflict where true heroism shines through. The largely unseen work that The British Legion does to support this process is worthy of immense praise.

My inner conflict is that this work is valuable and we should all support it. Howwever, while I have nothing but support for the British Legion, it remains the fact that suppport, like so much of the support shown by charitable organisations, should come from the Government. If the Government chooses to deploy its forces then the very minimum they should do is support the individuals deployed throughout their deployment AND after deployment when many will need most help.

I recognise that the world is such that, as a country, you need some sort of defensive force against those who would do you in. I resist the lionising of anything militaristic as unimpeachable and deserving of unquestioning support, as demonstrated by the massive sales for this mawkish record, as it lets the Government off the hook for neglecting its duty of care to the military.

I guess there is a lack of admiration for those we used to look up to, politicians used to stand for something, journalists used to dig up the truth rather than mucky gossip, so our admiration rests with those who through no fault of their own are shipped out to die in foreign conflicts which, if not entirely pointless in themselves, are rendered so by the lack of resources committed to them or the lack of political will to take the steps necessary to win them.

As an aside, what about teachers that battle against at best apathy, at worst genuine physical danger to attempt to deliver some sort of education to the children that, if they genuinely are our future, make for a sorry prospect. Is it in the Government’s interests to present their bravery as heroism – of course not, otherwise people might think they deserve the pensions they agreed to on entering the profession.

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