Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman blogs again from Task Force Helmand Headquarters, this time on the subject of Remembrance.
After the excitement of deploying out on operations last week, this week has been a little more quiet, albeit much safer! I have spent most of my time coordinating various media for the upcoming Remembrance Sunday services, some of which will be broadcast live from Afghanistan. Among others, George Alagiah and Quentin Somerville from the BBC will be coming out to film and record some of our soldiers in the forward operating bases (FOBs), as well as broadcasting live on the day itself. ITV News will also be coming out to film the soldiers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland) in the FOBs.
Remembrance is a very big deal for us in the military. I think that there are probably three reasons why it is so important. Firstly, there is very little opportunity when our soldiers are out here for them to grieve the losses of our friends and colleagues – we have a job to do, and being distracted has the potential to cause more soldiers to be hurt; we have to focus on the task at hand, knowing that the all-important grieving process will take place on our return home. Remembrance gives us the opportunity to reflect on our losses for a short time whilst we are deployed and provides a focus for us to remember and pay tribute to our colleagues collectively when we are at home.
Secondly, we are very conscious in the military of the debt that we owe to our forefathers. This is probably the first generation of soldiers in many years to have a small understanding of what our forefathers must have gone through, though I would not like to compare what we are doing now with what happened in the first and second world wars – there is absolutely no comparison. It is important to us to remember what they did for us and to acknowledge the debt that we owe to those generations. Having seen what life can be like in a society that lives under the constant threat of oppression, we should not take the freedom that they gave us for granted.
And thirdly, the outpouring of support and commitment that the nation as a whole demonstrates during Remembrance is humbling. We should never underestimate the impact on our servicemen of knowing that people at home support them, even if they do not support the task we are doing from a political perspective. The difficult task that we are undertaking would be made much harder if we did not have the support of our families, friends and the nation as a whole behind us.
So, even though we are busy fighting an insurgency, supporting the government of Afghanistan in its efforts to improve the lives of the Afghan people, and training the Afghan Security Forces to stand on their own two feet, all of our soldiers will take a moment at 11am on Armistice Day, and again on Remembrance Sunday. This year’s Remembrance will be all the more poignant for us in 16 Air Assault Brigade, having lost Corporal David Barnsdale , Private Mikkel Jørgensen and sadly, over the weekend, Sapper William Blanchard in our first month in Afghanistan.
Thank you for your support.