UNCLE Ernie was with the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium and escaped in the little boats at Dunkirk during the Second World War.
My father served in the RAF and my Uncle Eric was in Egypt tackling Rommel (although not on his own). My wife Maria’s great uncle, Henry Kelly, of the Duke of Wellington Regiment, won the VC and MC and bar in the First World War.
My young friend Ben Dyson of Honley is serving his country in the same tradition of bravery and duty in the RAF in Afghanistan at this moment.
Those are all good reasons why I am wearing a poppy with pride.
I read of one chap who objected to wearing the flower on the grounds that it shows support for the wars in the Middle East that many think were unwise and possibly illegal.
No it doesn’t. It shows support for our troops, remembers their sacrifice and provides finance for the Royal British Legion that helps them and their families.
The men who serve don’t pick the wars they fight. But when they are sent into conflict, they do so with a level of discipline, professionalism and bravery second to none. I’ve seen it first hand during military trips abroad.
They are the best of the best.
Just as they were in the First World War when the poppy became synonymous with remembrance.
That was when battalions of pals signed up and, as a result, every hamlet and village in the land lost the cream of their generation. Look through the Examiner files from those distant war years to see the daily toll of local dead reported in the paper.
Dr John McRae of the Canadian Armed Forces wrote the poem In Flanders Fields in 1915 after he had seen friends and comrades die.
In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row, on row.
After the carnage, only blood red poppies would grow on the charnel land where they had fallen.
The poppy was first worn in Britain in 1921 to mark Armistice Day, which is now Remembrance Day, to remember all those men and women who were killed.
War is abhorrent and yet, at times, necessary. And wars are invariably fought by the young of our nation.
Thousands paid the ultimate sacrifice in World War One, thousands more fell against Hitler’s Nazis and the Japanese.
They continue to pay the sacrifice in Afghanistan, with local warriors among the dead.
On November 11 we should remember them – and not the wars in which they lost their lives – as well as those who continue to do their duty.
For all those brave young souls who died in the mud of Flanders and on the rocky beaches of Gallipoli almost 100 years ago. For Uncle Henry and Uncle Ernie and Ben Dyson.
Wear the poppy with pride.