Thursday, September 11, 2008
Jack on the March..................................
As a regular Stop the War marcher, anyone spotting me on the Operation Banner march past yesterday may have been a bit puzzled. But as I have always made clear, I may be against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I believe absolutely that we should support and honour our forces who have no choice in where they serve.
For anyone who served in Northern Ireland yesterday was a day overdue. A day to draw a line under 38 years of suffering and bloodshed. The hopes and prayers of all of us that this really does mark an end of 'the troubles" Along with pal Jill I was lucky enough to get tickets and to be part of an historic event. It was the first time I had been to a service in St Pauls and it was truly a fitting setting, I especially appreciated the guard of honour they laid on for me (as you can see in the pic!). Before the service began I had been looking out for Nick Clegg, but could only spot David Cameron. I did toy with the idea of going and asking him to give Nick a message, but then spotted him so was able to give him my own message........it's OK - I didn't mention the T word, so there was no need to bring in the Royal Marines to separate us!
The service was extremely moving, I can't imagine how painful it must have been for those who were there who had lost loved ones over what was the longest ever deployment of British Forces. Let's hope Afghanistan doesn't break that record. After the service there was to be a march of veterans to the Guildhall (odd to think of myself as a veteran!)I had hmmmmmd and aaaaahed about whether to march. Did I really want to make a fool of myself?! When serving I can remember being told off for not being able to tell my right from my left leg and on one occasion when marching in to get my pay, the officer bellowed "March in, don't mince!" and sent me off to come in again, so marching isn't really my strong point..........Anyway, why not break with convention, how many others have ever marched in shocking pink boots? The retired Para behind me asked incredulously if I was intending to march. Yes say I, in those? says he....I joined the ranks quite near the front and unfortunately behind someone very tall. Now had we had time to organise properly - in height order, I would have been in my rightful place - in the middle at the front. That way you are close to folk of a similar height. But sadly not yesterday, I was behind someone a foot taller, as you can see from the pic. I did my best, but the combination of stilettos and being 'vertically challenged' ensured I had to break step every so often and do a little run to catch up - hopefully not caught on camera! Then to a delicious spread at the Guildhall with more than enough champagne! Yet again I heard a tale of what I regard as a failure of duty of care of injured soldiers. A unit in Essex is raising funds for a young man who lost his leg in Afghanistan so he can have a bionic leg as the country doesn't make up for the fact that we have sent him off to risk his life, by ensuring he gets the best.
I had to leave early for another meeting (more later) but I have to say, knowing the tickets for this event were well oversubscribed I felt very privileged to have been able to take part.