Comment: Remember to think also of the future

For me, seasonal weather triggers strong associations with events and feelings.

John Knight
John Knight

The autumnal weather - fading light and falling leaves - always reminds me of loss and that great national manifestation of regret, Remembrance Sunday.

I wrote in this column a while back about the third sector being everywhere. Last weekend, I was ambling down my local high street and spotted a small crowd in the distance. I charged off to find out what was going on. In the middle of the crowd stood Bill (I shall call him that to save his blushes), a smart, keen-eyed octogenarian with a chest heaving with medals. He was collecting for the Royal British Legion's annual poppy appeal. Bill had served in the infantry and fought at Dunkirk. Many of his young friends had been killed in battle. There was a quiet serenity and wistfulness about him as he told me this. He said he had been inundated with people that morning - young and old - wanting to donate to the legion.

The annual poppy appeal is a national institution and a firm fixture in the nation's calendar. But it has the potential unintended consequence of hiding the tremendous work the Royal British Legion does throughout the year, when the poppies and the collecting tins have been put aside. Working with servicewomen and men who have been mentally and physically damaged by being sent to fight wars by the state, the legion helps people to rebuild their lives and accommodate the horror of what they have experienced.

For me, Remembrance Sunday is not only about remembering the sacrifices of those who have gone before. It is also about the support available for those serving now, and about what we can do to stop more young lives being lost in the future. The legion started this debate by launching its Honour the Covenant campaign. It wants countries that continue sending young people to war to honour the historic covenant that says the state will support those people when they return, and will also support the families of those who are lost to war every year.

- John Knight is head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire 

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