My own outlook on the sacrifice of others was altered completely after a Mercat Tours trip to France and Belgium, where men fought and died for their country – and for us.
On day one, we went to Messines to see the church, which had stood as long as possible as a beacon of hope. The most enlightening visit of the day was to Thiepval to see the monument commemorating those who died at the Battle of the Somme. It stands an incredible 140 feet high and contains the names of 72,195 men. Our guide pointed out one of the names and told us that he had won a Victoria Cross. When a box of grenades was being distributed, it was dropped. A pin had been pulled and an explosion was imminent when this soldier threw himself on top of it and absorbed the blast, saving his comrades. I have never felt so humble in my life.
The third day saw us visit two graveyards: firstly, we visited Tyne Cot, the biggest British cemetery in Belgium. The graves went on in to the distance. Some of them had names, regiments and ages on them, but others were simply marked ‘a soldier known unto God’. Langermarck was a very different graveyard. This was for German soldiers and the graves were merely black plaques on the ground surrounded by oak trees. It struck me here that the only thing that made the young men here different is that they died in German uniforms. They were just following orders, the same as the British soldiers, but where they have been laid to rest is so bleak in comparison.
Sometimes I think we are too busy in our own lives to remember those who gave their lives for our sake. I can only hope that in the future we will continue to remember them.