OPINION

What we can learn standing side by side with our veterans

Posted On 19 Jun 2019 at 2:27 pm

This year I feel very honoured to have had the opportunity to attend the D-Day 75 commemorations and combine this with being the city’s armed forces champion.

Councillor Amanda Grimshaw joined D-Day veterans at Arromanche for the 75th anniversary commemorations of the landings

I’ve visited Normandy before on many occasions in the company of three good friends who were D-Day veterans.

This was my first trip without the company of any of these great men. Jim, Harry and Frank sadly passed away last year and I miss them all.

Walking the beaches where they landed, I was able to treasure my memories of our previous visits. We had visited the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Bayeux and I remembered how my three friends paid their respects there to their long-lost friends.

Seeing them mourn gave an understanding to me of what they had been through.

These men in their nineties were remembering and reliving, and immersed for a brief moment, back in those decades when they were young men in their prime. Many were just boys. They came home changed forever by their experiences.

People ask why I have an interest in visiting the battlefields. I don’t have any liking for war, far from it. Learning about the past, and sharing moments with those who underwent the horror, gives an insight into the best and worst of humanity.

People are my main interest and focus. I take time to share those memories, listening and trying to understand the lessons from the past.

Spending time with our older generation is something I treasure. It’s a huge privilege to carry their memories. To share and relive moments that have never left them even now in great advanced age, when all are well into their nineties.

Many never spoke of their experiences until the Normandy Veterans’ Association was set up.

Now, as they’re approaching an age where death is not far away, they finally feel that they are able to share memories that they have kept back.

Some wonder how history will eventually judge the actions that they took 75 years ago.

To be able to listen and reassure and allow them the time to talk is invaluable.

Visiting D-Day 75 was a moving and interesting experience. This being the 75th anniversary, it was a special turning point, as numbers of veterans attending will now sadly reduce.

The pomp and ceremony, combined with actual veterans in attendance in these numbers, will never be repeated.

Laying a wreath from our council was a great honour and reflects the respect our city feels for its older generations.

Councillor Amanda Grimshaw is the armed forces champion on Brighton and Hove City Council.

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