Reflecting on the Armistice Centenary


Today I am reflecting on the significance of the poppy to me.

Before I came to live in Europe, I had never spared a thought about the world war 1. Not because I did not care but mainly because its significance was never impressed upon me as a person. Sadly in Africa, history is poor.

It is the responsibility of a nation to hand down significant historical stories about various issues to each coming generation. Sadly, we are impoverished as a people by a government who do not feel the need to tell us stories about our past. To impress on us the need to keep in remembrance, the sacrifices made for us by generations past that have enabled us partake in this future of peace alongside the rest of the world.

Recently, it emerged that Prince Charles made a trip to Nigeria in commemoration of the Armistice Centenary.

Why go to Africa, I thought. Surely we were not involved in the world war 1?

No sooner had I blurted out my surprise than I was corrected by my friends. Nigerians took part they said. In fact, one of my friends disclosed that his father had enlisted but never got to travel because the war ended before he could. He said it solely, with somewhat of a grief. To the extent that he described his father’s exclusion from the war as unfortunate. It was as though, the singular fact that his father did not fight in the war reduced his emotional connection to the on going commemorations that were taking place all around the world.

After hearing this, I found it a bit sad that as a nation, we had mostly been deprived of our connection with the current events as a result of the omission of our historical stories from most of our lives. And so I had to find a way to connect with the wider story of war, conflict, sacrifice and now peace.

In death lay the connection with this story.

These veterans who we remember today fought in a physical battle. For many, their participation was voluntary but for others, they simply had no choice. There was a battle and they had to play their own part in it. Some found the prospect to be exciting while others were petrified. We all are faced with different battles in life for which we too struggle, fight, sacrifice and hope to find peace from in the end. Some of these battles are physiological (within our bodies), others are social. Some are psychological while others are cultural. I could go on and on listing the possible forms and shapes that our battles may take but the fact remains that we are constantly at war with one thing or another from within or without.

For the war Veterans, the poppy emerged to commemorate their sacrifice and be for us a sign that helped us keep them in remembrance. This was rightful. Once a Canadian physician named Lieutenant Colonel John Macrae wrote a poem called In Flanders fields where he spoke about the poppy. In it he referred to poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers during the war after personally burying his close friend in battle. poppies happen to grow from seeds. These seeds die to the ground before growing out beautifully. This in a way is significant in that it gives us hope about the future. That having toiled and struggled, suffered and died, like the seed, we will rise again in splendour and beauty. In his poem, Macrae wrote from the perspective of the dead, urging us the living to carry on holding the touch and fighting on till victory. Part of the poem also asks us never to forget the sacrifice of them who once were but now have fallen so that we might live. For when we forget, the poem suggests that they will not sleep so sweetly in their graves.

Today, I remember many who have died fighting different wars. Some for my sake, some for the sake of others. Some even fought their own battles gallantly till the end for themselves.

We remember you today and always.

We hope that we too will keep on trying our best in this life to leave the world better than we met it. Not only in terms of conflict resolution but also in terms of the way we interact with the physical world- our environment.

On a final note, I salute all the veterans war, current service men and even those currently enlisting. I acknowledge the sacrifices you have, are and still make for us to enjoy the freedom that has become normal. I also remember those families left behind to bear the sacrifice of losing their loved ones- those service men and women who paid the ultimate price with their lives.

Thank you for reading

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Photo credit Pixabay

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