Thursday, 1 July 2010

A tale of two homecomings

On Tuesday two planes landed in England, returning two groups of young men to their home country. One plane landed at Heathrow and taxied to a discrete area of the airport so that the men could disembark, away from sight of public and press. The area is normally used by royalty, heads of state and celebrities. The young men were transferred to a set of expensive cars, waiting to whiskengland heathrow them off to various parts of the country from  where they would travel on to their luxury holidays with family and friends. These young men are some of the best paid people in their profession, earning more in a year than most people will earn in a lifetime. In a few weeks time they will return to the work they love and to the adulation of crowds around the country. Household names, feted by the public and press, idolised by youngsters who wear their heroes’ names on the back of replica shirts.

The other plane landed at Brize Norton. Seven young men disembarked, taken to a group of specifically designed vehicles and driven in a cortege through the streets of the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett. No one saw their faces, nor their bodies because each of the seven had been killed in Afghanistan within the space of 72 hours last week. They lay in coffins over which were  draped the Union flag in the back of hearses. They were not returning to meet family and friWootton Bassett paradeends, not returning ready to depart on a holiday, not returning ready to take up their chosen profession in a few weeks time. The crowds who lined the streets did not cheer or chant but stood in respectful silence while loved ones wept.

The names of these young men, mentioned in the news bulletins for a few hours, will soon be forgotten except by those who knew them and loved them. They are: Lance Corporal David Ramsden; Colour Sergeant Martyn Horton; Private Alex Isaac; Private Douglas Halliday; Sergeant Steven Darbyshire; Lance Corporal Michael Taylor; Marine Paul Warren.

Two planes, two homecomings, two groups of young men who represented their country. And there the similarity ends.

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