It's not all about the dead

Last updated 10:47 24/04/2014
Pat Veltkamp Smith
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

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Tomorrow we remember all our war dead, young men killed in battles in far off lands, never to feel again love and loss, passion and fear.

OPINION: We rightly remember them, cut down in the flower of their youth that we might enjoy ours.

But spare a thought for those who got back, made it home, lived on, sometimes into an impoverished age haunted by memories, with missing or aching limbs and not a lot to show for it all.

We are right to honour our war dead, those who paid the ultimate price.

But left to live were so many more, somehow forgotten, overlooked, their names not on honour boards or memorial stones.

They returned and became our fathers, grandfathers - good guys, but not heroes, their exploits quietly buried and forgotten - as many of them have been.

War changed them, as wives and families knew.

They were enjoined to just get on with it once demobbed and many of them did, switching trades, developing new careers as teachers, printers, farmers, photographers, new opportunities opening up for them.

But somehow others were left, stumbling, and despite the best efforts of Returned Services associations and the like, some never did make it, joining the sad odd-bods every society does have.

So not for them wreaths laid at memorials tomorrow; their names are not read out on lists of those who gave their lives.

Yet in a different way they did.

Their lives were taken from them and though they lived on for many it was a half life in shadows.

Every war leaves a generation of women without men, widowed or staying single because love did not return.

Children were left without fathers, mothers without sons.

Every Anzac Day we thank God for those who made the effort to keep us safe and recognise too all those who lives, inextricably caught up in conflict, were changed forever and never, let's face it, for the better.

It is up to all of us now to keep a hard-won peace.

First up, stop banging supermarket trolleys, slamming doors, gunning cars and getting into road rage.

For peace sake, just cool it.

 

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- The Southland Times

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