Each year, the Royal British Legion’s Remembrance Festival focuses on a different aspect of honouring those who have served the Crown and country in the armed forces. This year the theme is Service, not just of those deployed on active service, but the unseen service of those who love them. We’re encouraged to remember the impact that their absence, and their homecoming, can have not just on the service personnel but on their loved ones.
Those are the hidden costs of serving in the armed forces. Those at home, whether they be parents, partners, spouses, or children, carry a load of anxiety for their loved one. There’s the weight of managing without them and then of re-shaping lives and routines around them when they return. If they return, of course. If not, there’s the burden of grief which will be carried life-long.
If they do return, they’re forever changed by what they’ve experienced in combat or on peacekeeping duties. They may carry physical and mental scars, and not know how to express them except among their comrades, who don’t need words because they just get it, because they’ve seen and heard and smelled the same things. That can have an impact on loved ones too.
I often tell the story in Remembrance services of a man I knew in my home church who had been a prisoner of war in Burma during World War II. He’d seen and experienced unimaginable things but would never talk to his wife about them. He didn’t want to. He didn’t want those images to be spoken of in his home back in England. They weren’t to invade that precious space, that haven. But that didn’t mean he’d forgotten, or that those memories didn’t trouble him. He and his wife learned to live with them, and with the fact that some things just remained unspoken.
Perhaps in this year’s season of Remembrance, as well as remembering and giving thanks for the sacrifice of those who fought and died in service of our nation and of peace, we can also remember to pray for those still serving now, for those who love them and support them, and for healing of the seen and unseen scars of war.
God of healing and of peace, in whose service is perfect freedom,
we hold before you those who serve our nation in His Majesty’s Armed Forces, and those who love them.
We pray that during times of separation you would protect their relationships.
We pray that during times of reunion you would ease the transitions and be present in homecomings.
We pray for healing of bodies, minds, and spirits broken by experiences of combat, and for healing of grief for those who will never return.
Hold and guard all who serve on behalf of others, and their loved ones, we pray.