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Duty, Service, Respect

A picture tells a thousand words, or so they say.  In the case of the picture above, I certainly think it would be possible to manage a thousand words on it. 

 It is a powerful image. Of course, thoughts of the Queen inevitably rise to the forefront; Monday was a sad, moving, but beautiful day. It was a day to reflect on all the things that our late Queen stood for, but at the same time, it was also a day to reflect on some of the things that we do well as a country, and the things about which we should be rightly proud. 

However, there was something else I kept noticing throughout the day: those eight young guardsmen. You probably noticed them too.  What an awesome responsibility they undertook, and throughout the day I kept finding myself willing them well whenever they were called upon.  That they served with such reliability should not surprise us, I suppose, but it certainly inspired me to see those young men (one of them just 19) undertaking such a sacred duty in the service of their Queen. On behalf of us all, they bore her coffin with utmost dignity. Their willingness to serve demonstrated their deep respect for the Queen, and also for all those traditions (some ancient, some more modern) which we observed throughout that day.  It was hugely impressive.  

I have written about respect quite a bit lately, and you will know that it is one of my themes for the term with the boys. The image of those young guardsmen causes me to reflect upon the link between respect, duty and service.  To serve, and to do your duty, can be hard (it would be difficult to underestimate both the mental stress and the physical exertion these eight young men underwent), but people regularly demonstrate examples of costly service and unflinching duty in exceptional circumstances. Why do they do it?  I can’t help thinking that fundamentally, it has to flow out of respect.

I had cause to think about this again this afternoon when visiting Pegasus Bridge in Normandy with the Year 6s (I write this from a hotel in France!)  Someone at the museum said that many historians think it was the single most important night of the war.  If the gliders who captured the bridge, and the paratroopers who attacked the Merville Gun Battery, hadn’t done their duty that night, the D-Day landings the following day could have been very different.  A real service then.  We, of course, respect them for having done what they did, but in interviews they say they were just 'doing their duty'.  I can’t help thinking that they were able to serve so bravely because of the respect they had for their fellow man, and their understanding of what responsibility to others means.

Those eight young guardsmen did their duty, gave important service, and demonstrated their respect.  Inspiring.

Alistair Duncan

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