Keeping memory alive

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IT was an encouraging sight to have a full house at the Port Alfred Moth hall for the Remembrance Day parade on Sunday November 12.

It was one of the best attended such gatherings I have seen in the last 10 years, as they usually draw only a dozen or so veterans and their wives, as well as a few other old souls for whom occasions like this are important.

They are occasions to remember not only the fallen in two world wars and other conflicts since then, but those who came back from war, grew old and died in peace – the ranks of their friends ever thinning.

I remember attending a Remembrance Day parade in Pretoria 25 years ago, when there were still a few veterans of World War 1 around, their hair grey and white, and their bodies thin and frail, but still standing at attention as they honoured the solemnity of the service and wore their memories on their faces.

It struck me that soon after that the direct memory of that conflict by living survivors would be gone, and what a loss that would be for the world.

A few years ago there were still a few World War 2 veterans among the old soldiers at the various commemoration ceremonies held by the Moths, SA Legion and SA Air Force Association – both at the Moth hall and 43 Air School – but they too have passed on.

Moths members have lamented previously how their members are few, with no younger military veterans joining their ranks. One day they will be gone, and who will remember then?

What a precious thing to be able to pass on to your children – that they can inherit at least a portion of your memories and care about what you cared about.

I had a grandfather who fought in World War 1 at the age of 16, lying about his age as many young men did because they felt the call to serve their country and the commonwealth against a powerful aggressor.

Though he did not speak in any personal detail about his wartime experiences, and I was too young to appreciate it anyway at the time he died, the memory of that was passed on to me by my mother, who always was quietly emotional during the Remembrance Day services she attended with me.

What a precious thing to be able to pass on to your children – that they can inherit at least a portion of your memories and care about what you cared about.

That’s why it was good to see the mixture of generations at this most recent parade – the support of families and friends to keep the memory alive. We will remember them.

– Jon Houzet

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