Monday, 21 July 2014

Soldier, Soldier

There was some pomp and circumstance in Kettering today, when the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment was welcomed home and granted Freedom of the Borough. The regiment is recently returned from Afghanistan. There was a (to me) surprisingly large turnout for the occasion and the route of the parade was lined with folk. The whole thing culminated in a bit of ceremonial wotnot in the Market Square, where various dignitaries made speeches we couldn't hear - but I'm sure they were very nice.

I don't know much about the armed forces. The nearest I've come to any involvement was a brief dalliance with a submariner who later was involved in the Falklands conflict and was on the Sheffield when it was sunk.

We are, of course, surrounded by First World War stuff at the moment and I'm glad, because we need reminding how awful it was. The Second World War, too, shouldn't be forgotten. However, I have a problem with treating regular soldiers as heroes.

As far as I'm aware, no one is forced to join the army these days. If you sign up, you do so in the full knowledge that, notwithstanding the fabulous opportunities for training, travel, camaraderie and personal growth, there is a chance you will get shot at at some point. Does this make you a hero? I wonder. This isn't to say that there aren't individual acts of heroism, where a member of the armed forces will take a huge risk to rescue a civilian or a colleague. That's different, though.

I've had a quick look on the MOD website, and the starting salary for a regular solider is in the region of £18,000. That's quite a lot; but if you don't think it's worth everything that being in the army involves, don't sign up. Compare this to the RNLI volunteers who risk their lives for strangers for no financial reward, and who have to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Which is the more heroic?

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