Remembering those who have gone before, their sacrifices never forgotten.
Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. Poignant days when we stop our busy lives for just a few minutes to remember the service and sacrifice of all those who have fought for our freedoms.
As the UK and Commonwealth countries respect two minutes’ silence on Sunday morning, 13th November, millions of eyes around the world will be focused on the deeply moving parade and wreath-laying ceremony held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
This year, of course, will be the first year King Charles III lays a wreath as monarch, joined at the sombre occasion by 10,000 others – veterans of all branches of the armed forces, members of the Royal Family, political leaders, and representatives of faith communities.
Most importantly to us, in the parade will also be 60 representatives of The Not Forgotten.
Members of our veteran community from across the armed services, of all regiments, units and ages, will march alongside our Chief Executive Richard Walker, our Chairman and Trustees.
One of these is Dave Hart, an Afghanistan veteran of the Devon and Dorsets, who describes attending the ceremony with The Not Forgotten as a “true honour – you really feel you are at the centre of something significant being marked as a nation”. He has taken part in the parade several times before, and is always struck by the unique make-up of the group representing The Not Forgotten: “Most of the groups marching are obvious groups of one service or regiment, whereas we are a varied ‘mixed bag’ which is really special!”.
Dave has been a beneficiary of The Not Forgotten since 2004. He says he has had opportunities through the charity he would never otherwise have had, from running the New York Marathon to competing in the Veteran Games in Israel, as well as strong friendships. To him, it’s this sense of comradeship that is so important. “That constant link, that feeling of commonality and comradeship and shared experience with no judgement. It feels like a family”.
Dave is now a secondary school teacher, which he says adds extra poignancy to taking part in the Remembrance Sunday parade: “This week we discuss Remembrance with the students and it really brings it home for them that I will be there at the Cenotaph. As an educator, I feel I’m carrying the torch for them, too.”
Another of those marching with The Not Forgotten is Giles Price, a veteran Royal Marine who served in the Gulf War. He has been involved with The Not Forgotten for 20 years after being medically discharged from service in the 1990s and has attended the Cenotaph ceremony every year since 2010. He says he appreciates Remembrance Sunday as an opportunity to step away from the daily reality of living with his injuries and see the bigger picture.
“It’s about the wider aspect”, he explains. “The notion of remembering what others have been through rather than focussing on my own challenges. Remembering things bigger than myself and appreciating the wider ramifications of conflicts. My grandfathers fought in World War I and II, so I’ll be wearing their medals and taking those moments to remember the generations gone before, as well as people I served with who are no longer here. It’s about being part of a national thing where we project our minds into something beyond ourselves and our day-to-day worries”.
Steve Kay is a Falklands veteran who has not taken part in the Remembrance Sunday parade for many years, and is this year looking forward to representing The Not Forgotten as a way of giving something back to the charity he says has literally saved his life.
“The Not Forgotten is a lifeline”, he explains. “They have done so much for me. Nothing comes close to it, it’s special. Everyone at The Not Forgotten looks out for you, checks in with you. I can pick up a phone and know that someone will be there to help me. Going to their events keeps me going, gives me things to look forward to and work towards. I honestly wouldn’t be here without The Not Forgotten. So it’s important to me that I can give a little bit back.”
This weekend also gives Steve the chance to attend the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, catch up with fellow Not Forgotten veterans who he’s met at other events, and hopefully cross paths with former shipmates from his active service.
Whether you are attending a memorial event this weekend, or simply observing a two-minute silence at home, we hope you feel connected to the entire veteran community at The Not Forgotten and around the country, as the nation stops for two minutes to ensure no sacrifice is ever forgotten.