Friday, 29 June 2012

We Are Not Worthy

Our God and soldiers we alike adore
Ev'n at the brink of danger; not before:
After deliverance both alike requited,
Our God's forgotten and our soldiers slighted
Francis Quarles 1592-1644

Long ago when Red was just a tot and I was expecting Mr Charming I flew out to Florida to spend a few days with Big Man whose submarine was making a port visit there following a series of UK/US war games. It wasn't long after the first Gulf War and the Free World was still celebrating the liberation of Kuwait. It was Big Man's second port visit to Florida - the first had been several years earlier on a destroyer. At that time there had been an announcement about the visit on local radio and an 'Adopt A Sailor' scheme was instigated. Many Orlandians came forward and treated members of the crew to various fun activities. Big Man and his friend Scouse Easton were taken to a tequila bar by a businessman who proceeded to get them royally bladdered. Another guy was flown IN A PRIVATE JET to New York for the night! Yet others were treated to family-run hog roasts, barbeques and pool parties. The hospitality of the Americans and the way they accepted the visiting sailors, just because they were in the military (and Brits, I suppose), is something Big Man has never forgotten.
During the visit I made at the end of '91 we were amazed by the way service personnel and veterans were treated. There was a special 'Speed Queue' entrance for the military at Sea World and after Shamu had finished his (her?) performance the emcee asked all servicemen and women to stand up and get applauded by the rest of the audience. We were able to get access to any military base just on production of Big Man's ID card*, which was great because we were able to buy reduced 'Military Rates' price theme park entry tickets. Say what you like about the American people, they know how to treat the military and veterans. We were spoiled.




Even if I wasn't married to an ex-sailor and I didn't have many years as a Navy wife under my belt I still would have an awful lot of respect and affection for our Forces. All of my grandparents saw service in WWII - RAF, WRAF, Merchant Navy, Polish Free Air Force, ATS and a Military Nurse (that includes a step-grandad and a grandmother who first joined the ATS then went AWOL to join the WRAF because she 'liked the uniform better') - and I come from a port city that appreciates the Navy with a passion, thanks to their support in the Cod War. So I'm really outraged and disgusted when I read things like this article in the paper today. Six soldiers were turned away at the bar of a pub in Coventry when they tried to get a cup of coffee each. The six were in the city to act as pallbearers at the funeral of the brother of one of them, also a soldier, who was killed on active service in Afghanistan. A member of the bar staff had already taken their order before it was rescinded by the publican's daughter who told the men that it was the pub policy not to serve 'anyone in uniform' (including policemen, ambulancemen, nurses, bus drivers??? Doubt it).
The publican has, reluctantly, apologised after first refusing to do so and has given a £200 donation to the fund set up for the dead soldier's wife and child (they accepted it....I would've told him where to stuff it). He also explained that had he known the soldiers were in the city to act as pallbearers at a funeral they would of course have been served. Why does that make a difference? What sort of establishment refuses to serve military personnel in uniform at all? Coventry is hardly Aldershot or Portsmouth, full to the brim with testosterone-charged young fighting men....there can't be that many uniformed servicemen causing trouble in the Midlands - heck, even in Pompey you very rarely see a matelot in 8s.

Prince William wears 8s very handsomely

Years ago when the IRA were very active in the UK the MOD banned servicemen from wearing uniform outside of military establishments - their visibility could very seriously pose a threat to their safety - but nowadays it's encouraged. And so it should be. Protecting one's country is nothing to be ashamed of. A Facebook group set up to protest at the treatment received by the soldiers in Coventry has almost 100,000 members, which shows that many people are incredibly grateful to and proud of our Armed Forces. The outpouring of affection and admiration towards Lance Bombadier Ben Parkinson reinforces this feeling.



We lionise inarticulate footballers, vapid actors and autotuned singers whilst paying our frontline military crap wages; housing them in sub-standard homes; disrespecting their traditions and belittling their sacrifice. We give them no quarter, either during their careers when they could benefit from discounts and preferential access to services or after their period of engagement, when we send them to the bottom of the housing pile and refuse to acknowledge their service experience and achievements. What is wrong with this country? Every single serviceman is somebody's son, brother, husband. and we owe them so much. We don't deserve them.

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936

* this has never been a reciprocal arrangement to my knowledge and I doubt it happens in the US either now in these post-bin Laden days. I'm interested to hear about the military experience from any of my American readers.

4 comments:

  1. Great post Keshling! I agree 100% that our servicemen deserve better. I'm a Coventry girl and was disgusted by Browns bar, it's interesting to see the strength if feeling this has caused throughout the city. The bar involved has always had a generally crap attitude, but they really overstepped the mark this time. X

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  2. Very well said. I so agree about the overpaid footballers. Watching some of the England team exhausted after 90 minutes is a joke let alone their inability to use their native tongue. Whenever I see one of our soldiers in the local shops, we are quite near barracks, I want to give them a hug. Obviously I don't in case I get arrested.

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  3. Just wondering.....you OK? I hope all is well. xx

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  4. Hi, I hope you are okay and are back soon :0) x

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