It’s a fitting occasion for tonight’s blog post as yesterday was ‘Remembrance Sunday.’
It was a few weeks ago and I received a message from my stepfather, saying that on Armistice Day his mum and dad’s Church was doing a celebration of November 11th and it was also 60 years ago that his dad signed in the Royal Air Force. His dad, and brother were doing the role call, it would be awesome if we could make it. Plus his mum is doing a meal after, what a fantastic occasion.
So I said, just on the chance, because I had done the ‘BBBR 18’ with Help For Heroes maybe I could say something at the ceremony. “Brilliant idea, ” he said, “I will run it past mum and get back to you”
A couple of days later I received a message, “Hi mate, just heard from mum, yes the church would love you to share some of your experiences, your on the order of service”, “wow” I said.
This hit me with so much pride, I have never done anything like this, but what a fitting occasion, 100 years since the end of ‘WW1’
Myself and Jessica went up to my mum and stepdads on the Saturday evening, we arrived quite late and sat for a meal and start chatting.
We went to bed at about 11.30pm which is very late for me, and I was up early to practice my speech a few more times. I was nervous, I was performing this speech on such a special occasion.
As I changed into my suit, myself and the family travelled to the church, St Margaret, in Woodham Mortimer, Essex. As we walked in there was handmade decorations, each providing a remembrance aspect, such as handmade vehicles and beautifully set Poppies.
The service was special and at times I did find it hard to stop the tears welling up in my eyes, “I could not stand in front like this,” I said but then we went outside to the War Memorial to say our final blessings.
As we came back into the Church, I was focused and nervous at the same time and then my stepdads mum came up to me and said, “just go up and get ready to go”, “ok” I said.
I went up to the podium and begun, and here is the speech.
Remembrance Day Speech
“Between July 1914 and November 1918, there were 40 million casualties, in which eighteen million people died in World War I, or the Great War, as combatants such as myself came to know it.
The loss of human life was staggering, and to that point, it ranked as the greatest number of deaths in any point in history.
But alas, it was to be beaten by the Second World War, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. It went on to see over 60 million people killed. 3% of the world population at that time, of which 50 – 55 million were civilians. It became the deadliest military conflict in history.
And so, whilst we gather here today, to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women, in the two World Wars; I would like us to reflect upon that the real impact of any war, of any conflict, and its cost is always on its people.
Wars can bring out the darkness, the ugliness and the greatest depravity; for this was how some 6 million Jews came to be victims of the Holocaust in World War II.
And how over 200,000 handicapped and disabled people were also killed.
Those who serve as Servicemen & women, do not do so for the honour of their land, because the geography of mud and grass and stone means very little. They do so for people like you & me, who live on this beautiful land. Who build their homes, and their lives and their happiness here. And they do so to defend us from any enemy, no matter who it may be, so that we can sleep safely in our beds at night.
Whilst the face of war may have changed from what it was back in the times of World War I & II, wars are still being fought out there today.
However, what most do not know, is how the use of new machine guns and heavy artillery in World War I, tore through flesh & bone, causing devastating injuries that had never been seen before.
At the start of World War I, wounded soldiers with broken thigh bones had an 80% chance of dying. But by the end of it, they had an 80% chance of surviving. And this was due to the medical advancements and organised medical management that was borne out of the wars.
With hundreds of thousands of injured soldiers returning home, World War I, also led to a new emphasis on rehabilitation and continuing care. One of which was the birth of plastic surgery, as we know it today.
It also led to the introduction of Blood Banks.
World War II helped to advance our understanding of nutritional science. During the war, U.S. scientists worked hard to identify which vitamins and minerals were most important for human health in an effort to create soldiers’ rations that would maximize their energy.
And our understanding of wound management today, owes much to the experimentation with antiseptics, the discovery and use of penicillin and morphine, that came out of the two wars.
You may wonder why I am telling you about all of this, but it is because of this that I stand in front of you today.
You see I was once a young paratrooper, with a promising career ahead of him. But that changed one night, when on a military exercise in Norfolk, I was subjected to a sustained & brutal unprovoked attack, in a civilian situation, which left me with a serious brain injury and with a slim chance of survival. And if I did manage to survive, it would be with considerable mental deficit; for I had stopped breathing on the scene & had to be revived. It would be two weeks before I knew any of this, because this was how long I was in a coma for.
I spent the next 31 months in recovery, including extensive rehabilitation at Headley Court, a Military Hospital. Had it not been for the tireless dedication, hard work & medical care I received from the dedicated doctors, nurses & therapists, I do not believe I would be as I am today, speaking in front of you.”
But despite making a 99% recovery from my injuries, I had to be medically discharged from the Army, due to the epilepsy I had developed, as a result of the attack.
However, World War II in some way gave rise to my second career, because today I am a Senior Trainer, at arguably the world’s leading Personal Training company. And nutrition science is a large part of what I do every single day.
My personal journey has led me to want to give back & so in 2016 I joined Help for Heroes. As well as fundraising for them, I speak on their behalf at Band of Brothers.
The Band of Brothers is a network that is available to Veterans, Service Personnel and those who have served alongside the Armed Forces who have suffered a permanently life-limiting or career-ending injury or illness during or attributable to their service. And I am extremely proud to be a part of it
And so, you see, my personal journey, from the army, through to my rehabilitation following the attack, into my civilian life as a Personal Trainer, all find some beginning from these two World Wars.
And so I leave you with this from Sherrie Ball, to remember all of those who fell in those two world wars:
I do not know your name-
Nor for which battle you died.
I do not know your home,
Nor the tears that were cried.
I do not know where you rest-
Nor the promises broken.
I do not know your uniform
And your fears lay unspoken.
But, I know your spirit exists-
That your courage is admired,
And your sacrifice is honoured
By each soul that’s inspired.
And I offer you from my heart
Thank you, to guardians unknown
For offering yourselves for us all
That we may keep freedom…