I was not just enshrined in black and white
trained to react to a whistle
and launch myself over the top
I didn’t just stare at No Man’s Land
jumping at every falling leaf
nerves shot to pieces, trembling with fear
I was not just shipped hastily to Europe
attempting to aid our Allies
in facing down the Nazi machine
I was not just despatched to the Mediterranean
sand-whipped and sweating
to fight in a theatre far flung from home
I am not a romantic notion of old boys and idealism
telling war stories of camaraderie
I am not decades past.
I am the young man hobbling down the street
I am the hands held out for a bit of spare change
I am the woman bound to a wheelchair
I am the mental health patient facing down the day
I am sitting next to you on the bus.
I am here.
Remember, I am here.
I first wrote this poem for Remembrance Day last November, but I noticed that Monday 12th May 2014 marks 95 years since an amazing UK charity, Combat Stress, has been helping armed forces veterans overcome mental illness. I (or Freya’s real-life, living, breathing, alter-ego) will be making a donation to this charity, because it is vitally important that their work continues. In World War One, some soldiers were put on trial, even executed, for desertion and cowardice when exhibiting symptoms of shell shock, or what we now know to be PTSD. People who volunteer their lives for us should be given all the help they can get. I hope you will spread the word.