I was driving the South Island last week, which meant I saw a lot of small towns. Small towns may have lost a lot over the last few decades, but the one thing you can be sure to find is a war memorial:
Exactly who the glorious dead would have been was made clear to me when I reached my destination. I was heading to Dunedin to pick up my sister from university, and when I got there I met all these 18 year old boys, one of them looked acted very much like my brother. I am reasonably certain that none of them will be sent to war. They will not be told lies about the glorious empire to get them to sign up; they will not conscripted into uniform; and it seems unlikely that poverty will drive them to their army. But their grandfathers and great-grandfathers weren't so lucky, and those men would have been just as funny, just as silly, just as obnoxious, just as young.
Theirs war was not the war to end all wars, and never could have been. So I'll mark this armistice day with a song from another war, a song I can rarely listen to without crying:
Dig in boys for an extended stay
Those were the final orders to come down that day
Waiting to be saved in the Philippines
You'll wait forever for the young Marines
Now I believe to be here is right
But I have to say I'm scared tonight
Crouching in this hole with a mouth full of sand
What comes first the country or the man
Look at those slanted eyes coming up over the hill
Catching us by surprise, it's time to kill or be killed
Over here, over there, it's the same everywhere
A boy cries out for his mama before he dies for his home
If only we'd meant it when we'd said "Lest We Forget"