Harry Patch was the last remaining British soldier from World War 1 - who passed away on July 25th 2009 at the age of 111 (he was briefly the oldest man in Europe). It was inevitable, of course, that one day we would no longer have first generation people to tell us about what happened. It fills me with a saddness I can't completely explain-- but I am thankful that the last man standing was Harry, because the work he did in his final years, of sharing his message of peace and reconcilliation is something that will speak for years to come.
"It wasn't worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands. T'isn't worth it...the First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row. That's what caused it. The Second World War...Hitler wanted to govern Europe, nothing to it. I would have taken the Kaiser, his son, Hitler and the people on his side and bloody shot them. Out the way and saved millions of lives. T'isn't worth it."
His views could perhaps be seen as simplistic-- but when it comes down to it, you realise just how right he is. What are we fighting for? Why do we do this? Why do we live this way?
He demanded than when he died, his body be carried by soldiers who are the age he was when World War 1 ended. And most moving of all - is that he had two German soldiers as pallbearers. I thought that was beautiful, and incredibly meaningful.
"Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims."
I sit here in my comfortable back room, sipping tea. I have the comfort of my family, my job, my money, my home, my iPhone, my blog, my everything. I cannot comprehend or understand what you did for me, what you continue to do for me, and how thankful I am.
We are lucky in that there are veterans and holocaust survivors from World War 2. Although not enough. Let's make sure we take care of them. Let's make sure we listen, when they speak, yet understand if they don't want to. Let's make them proud.
Harry's message is of massive importance. It's time to forget about the division in terms of who fought who. German soldiers were the same as ours, just little boys being told to do a job. Let's learn from them, let's take care of them.
"If two Governments can't agree give them a rifle each and let them fight it out. Don't lose 20,000 men. It isn't worth it,"