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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembrance Sunday - a poppy is only the beginning

In the cold drizzle at the war memorial in Westbury on Trym, I laid a wreath this morning.

I think Remembrance Sunday is one of the most sobering and significant days of the year. My granddad fought in the second world war and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. Unthinkable numbers like him died in performing extraordinary acts of bravery and sacrifice.

Sometimes I worry that the easy wearing of a poppy (costs around a pound or so, depending on how generous you feel) can become a substitute for thinking hard about what it, and the day, actually signifies.

It signifies remembrance for those who gave their lives so we can enjoy the life we live today. It signifies recognition of a generation who lived and fought in their own various ways through two bloody world wars not so very long ago. And it signifies remembrance and respect for our armed forces fighting today, and those lost in recent conflicts.

But as we nationally stand round our war memorials, wearing poppies and listening to Elgar's Nimrod or the the last post , our armed forces are struggling in Iraq and Afghanistan with out-of-date equipment, inadequate investment and insufficiently protected vehicles.

At home, pensioners, some of whom lived and fought through the second world war, are living on the breadline or below, with their pension funds robbed by Gordon Brown, and now struggling with interest rate cuts and fuel heating bills. Old people who survived the blitz will be struggling to live through the credit crunch.

Equipping our armed forces for the conflict to which the Government has committed them and supporting our elderly and giving them the recognition they deserve for seeing this country through its darkest hours are the true emblems of remembrance for our war dead.

If we are not prepared to protect our armed forces by providing them with proper equipment, and if we are not prepared to protect and look after our elderly and veterans today - by providing residential wardens where they are needed, and ensuring that 'independence' does not simply mean 'on your own', - wearing a poppy is little more than simply sticking a red bit of card on the lapel.

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