IT was the Spanish philosopher and novelist George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, and it is in our collective memories and on our war memorials that we remember those who have given their lives for their country.
Yet we have not learned from the past, and since the end of the Second World War more and more young men and women have been lost in the service of their country.
Neal Turkington was one such young man. An officer in the Royal Gurkha Rifles, he was killed in Afghanistan on July 13, 2010. He sacrificed his life to build a better future for a people who have been ravaged by conflict.
At 11am on Saturday, August 18 the name of Lieutenant Neal Turkington will be added to the Portadown War Memorial, the first addition to this symbol of our town’s remembrance since the end of the Second World War.
This great nation prides itself in remembering those who gave their lives for their country and it is in our collective memories that we must remember that past.
In towns and villages throughout the United Kingdom war memorials stand proud and at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire each serviceman and women killed since 1945 is remembered. Their names are dedicated each year and etched on the Armed Forces Memorial Wall, our national symbol of remembrance. This ensures their sacrifice will never be forgotten.
But this is not only about how a nation remembers; instead it’s about how a town remembers its fallen, the young men and women who are the very lifeblood of any community. For those who serve their country in the Armed Forces, their families and our veterans know ‘but for the grace of God’ it could have been their names or their loved ones’ names on those memorial walls.
This is not a glorification of war nor is it about showing support for the conflict in Afghanistan. Instead it is about compassion, a dignified recognition that there are still young men willing to sacrifice everything to help others. It demonstrates that Portadown remembers its fallen and the part they played in history.
Many of us cannot fully understand what it is like to lose a son on the battlefield fighting for his country, yet some of us can. To give the family the ability to visit the war memorial, to trace Neal’s name with their hand, will always be of great comfort to them.