Ladies and Gentlemen: Please don’t reach for that remote, don’t change the station, and please don’t walk away to do that task you have been putting off for the longest while.
It can wait for another ten minutes because I want to prevail on you to stop awhile to reflect with me and search your hearts to find out how you would react if tomorrow you woke up to find the peace of our country shattered, our country plunged into war, and the whole pattern of your well-ordered life threatened.
Would you volunteer to go to war to save Saint Lucia knowing full well that enlisting would probably put your life at real risk some time, some place ? Would you be willing to pay that supreme sacrifice, to give up your life for your country or even for the world community to ensure that peace was restored ?
This question was recently put to one of our regular radio talk-show hosts by one of the callers participating in discussion on the current relevance of Remembrance Day. Needless to say, the usually articulate host was lost for words and could not commit himself to a straight answer. But this is precisely what millions of men and women all over the world did when they left their homes, their friends and loved ones to fight for world peace during the dark days of the two World Wars.
They were not all career soldiers paid to defend their country, but ordinary civilians who come forward willingly to fight for peace, not only for those whom they knew and loved, but for persons whom they were never likely to meet. They are the ones whom each November, we remember, the ones whom the author of the poem “Lest We Forget” spoke of when he wrote:
One hundred million
[That didn’t] come home from war
Another eight hundred million
Who lived to bear its scars.
Among those almost one billion were men and women from Saint Lucia: some died, others returned scarred by their experiences. They are the veterans, some of them still in our midst, whose patriotism and sense of duty we recognise in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.
You will therefore understand how saddened I was to hear a caller to that same programme to which I referred earlier refuse bluntly to accept that he owed any of one of these local veterans any obligation to honour, let alone assist them. They did not do it for him, he said; he has absolutely no sympathy for them, let alone gratitude. If they were foolhardy or reckless enough to put themselves in harm’s way for a foreign power, then let them live with the consequences – or words to that effect. For him and other like-minded persons in our society, I would like to quote the poignant words of a dying soldier to one of his comrades:
“When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.
Yes, indeed, it is this sacrifice that we are asked to honour collectively, as a nation, at least once a year. Two years from now in 2014 we will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. This commemoration should give us the opportunity to reflect on the futility of war, and on the human suffering that it causes, and deepen our determination to avoid future conflicts. We need only think of World War II and of all the regional and domestic wars and conflicts that have been waged since for us to understand the fragility of peace and to appreciate how easily the world could again find itself plunged into global warfare. We need to remember those who died and those who continue to die in wars around the world. Why? Because, in the words of Owen Griffiths:
“Lest we forget
What they were dying for
Lest we forget
What they were killing for
Lest we forget
What the hell it was for”
We need to remember to keep alive in our own hearts and minds the need and the significance of keeping peace at home and on the world stage.
But how and when can we secure and sustain peace ? David Roberts, writing after he had experienced firsthand the ravages of the conflict in Kosovo, makes this recommendation:
There will be peace
when attitudes change ;
when self-interest is seen as part of common interest
when old wrongs, old scores, old mistakes
are deleted from the account ;’
when the aim becomes co-operation and mutual
benefit rather than revenge, or seizing maximum
personal or group gain;
when justice and equality before the law
become the basis of government
when basic freedoms exist ;
when leaders – political, religious, educational – and
the police nad the media’
whole heartedly embrace the concept of justice,
equality, freedom, tolerance and reconciliation
as a basis for renewal ;
when parents teach their children new ways to
think about people;
There will be peace
When enemies become fellow human beings
We need to build these defences of peace, so that future conflicts and wars can be averted. Let us remember those who died in the cause of peace, let us honour those who served to ensure that the lessons learnt will stay with us “always and forever.” We remember especially from Saint Lucia those who died in Active Service in World War II.
Pilot Officers D. Shingleton-Smith and D. DuBoulay
Flying Officer H. T. Etienne
Flight Sergeant H. Dulieu
Seamen – W. George, C. J. Gitts, J. George
P. Phillip, J. Laurent, G. Stephens
A. G. Augier, F. Charles, G. Gabriel,
R. Joseph, C. Joseph, C. M. Laurencin, and
We honour those who served, we pray for the repose of the souls of those who have since died, and we pledge our support of those who are still with us, and whom we count among the members of the Saint Lucia Branch of the Royal Commonwealth Ex Service League.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us not break faith with them. Let us work for peace in our time and in our land. Let this peace begin with each one of us.