Would you like the chance to travel to Poland, Canada, Jamaica or Cyprus in the first year of your new job? How about the chance to earn an excellent starting salary and receive six weeks’ paid holiday every year, all while training in a trade, profession or skill?We will all note that it fails to mention Iraq and Afghanistan, because, Yes!, it is an advert for the British Army.
Who constitutes our armies? Seldomly the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful (H Windsor being the exception that proves the rule) it is the listless, and perhaps directionless, and least hopeful. We don't like to say this but for some, the forces are a place where you can go if your prospects are not too good. That is not to say that it is not a good place for these people. For those who survive (and that is the key) time in the army, or navy can haver proved very formative indeed. But not much help if you don't survive.
I point you again to Lehrer News Hours honour roll (see blog here)...this US Public broadcasting news show is on SBS daily from 4.45-5.45. Often at the end they show photos of fatalities in the Iraq war...last Friday's dozen or so were all either people of colour or of Hispanic name.
And one of our parish dads has become very clucky indeed because his youngest son is presently doing intensive training with the Army Reserve, I felt cruel (and was indeed careless in the extreme) when I remarked that the Reserve was good training until you actually got called up! He is a fine young man, and it will be doing him good; but he is floating, unsure and very vulnerable to a course of action which may end up costing him and his family dearly.
I offer again American poet Wyatt Prunty's poem THE RETURNING DEAD
Each night I make a drink and wait for them
They have become the day's concluding news,
Installments from a world without anthems
Or children, unfocusing eyes
A question that repeatedly rejects
My easy terms. They are ones who believed
And acted in the narrow and select
Ways handed them, while ordinary lives
Ran on without interruption
Or bad pictures, as though nothing had changed
Change is the one unanswerable question
Of these faces. The world can rearrange
Itself repeatedly, but these remain
The same, silent in everything they lack;
That's what they've come to, in places with names
Like Afghanistan, Iraq,
And this is the way it happens: the words
Are old - mother, father, home - and will catch
Surrounding currents in the slow absurd
Descending will of any river etched
Out of a landscape history refines
To myth. The TV blanks between
Segments, but every static face defines
Itself, holds stubbornly its private sceneâ€¦
Fixed, publicly, as we are led
Back to that little negative whose lack
Is each of us, staring the staring dead,
Leaning, sometimes like grief itself; then straightening back.