11/11 11:00:00 am. Silence ….
It is hard to imagine what the impact of silence would have been at 11 am on 11 November 1918. The guns fell silent on the western front after four years of continuous warfare. The incessant artillery bombardments were of such intensity that men were driven mad.
Many returned home with what was described as ‘shell shock’. That first silence marked the end of the ‘War to End All Wars’ or ‘The Great War’. Never before had the world suffered such casualties estimated at between 9 and 13 million dead; 60,000 of them Australian.
King George V declared that Armistice Day was to be held annually throughout the British Empire, including two minutes silence at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month to remember the fallen. Every family and every small town in Australia was affected by the First World War.
Statues were erected in town centres and parks, memorial boards were placed in churches and civic halls listing the names of those who had made the supreme sacrifice. The effect on our young nation had been enormous.
11:00:20 am ….
As a child, I remember everything and everyone did stop at that time as a mark of respect. A silence did descend over our local community and we remembered. We did not just remember the war to end all wars because only 21 years after it ended our nation was again at war. For the first time in our history our country was bombed and an invasion by the Japanese was a very real threat.
Again, our nation suffered the loss of many of our young men and women. Over 60 million died in what became known as the Second World War, over 27,000 were Australian. Our returned veterans and prisoners of war brought home the effects.
11:00:30 am ….
After the Second World War, it was decided to rename Armistice Day as Remembrance Day which would include a minute’s silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate all of our war dead. For me, conducting a Remembrance Day Service in Afghanistan in 2007 will never be forgotten. The acuteness of commemorating made more acute by having overseen a farewell service for what was the last Australian to have been taken by war.
11:00:40 am ….
The wars continue. We have had members of our armed forces deployed to Korea, Vietnam, East Timor, the Middle East and other lesser known places. Thousands of our young men and women have been deployed. Our casualties have diminished, but they still number over 1,000. Our veterans still return home only to find that the war is still with them.
The noise of helicopters, artillery, rifles, explosions etc brings back memories. The demons lurk and they long for silence in their minds and souls. We call it Post Traumatic Stress.
11:00:50 am …..
It is not possible to understand what it is like to serve in a war zone unless you have been there. Many of our veterans carry internal wounds from seeing horrific scenes, some carry a deep guilt that they survived and their mates did not, some carry guilt because they gave orders that resulted in casualties. Some find it impossible to integrate back into civilian life and they and their families suffer. For some of them, the only escape they see is to take their own lives. And so war claims another victim and it is tragic.
We can’t stay silent. Thank God for organisations like the RSL, Mates for Mates, Open Arms, Veteran Care, Soldier On, Wounded Warriors, the Invictus Games and others who provide veteran support. We can’t stay silent when as Christians we have the ultimate remedy for guilt, shame or hopelessness – it’s called grace.
This Remembrance Day take the time to be silent and pray that many veterans may come into contact with caring and compassionate Christians who will not be silent but introduce them to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.