Imagine you are the child of a World War 2 veteran – not too hard, for a lot of us. Imagine growing up with that knowledge, and with all the attendant feelings. Pride, respect, and so many others, right?
Try “shame” and “disgrace”.
In 1939, when Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, Ireland remained neutral, and did so throughout the war. Thousands of Irish men went off to war under the British flag, willing to sacrifice all for their country. And when they came home, they rightfully expected to be welcomed. Instead, the Irish government labelled them as deserters. They were banned from holding government jobs, and their state-sponsored pensions were withheld. These brave men were held in contempt, and their families shamed, all because the neutral government in Ireland thought they should have stayed home to “help defend against invasion”, an increasingly unlikely scenario after the 1941 invasion of Russia.
But there is progress. The government of Ireland issued an official apology last year, and today, the Irish Defence Minister will announce official details of a full government pardon, expected to pass through the parliament and be signed into law in a few days.
To the men already dead, this will have no meaning. But for those still alive, and more importantly for the families of these brave men, it will mean the end of a wrong that has lasted for far too long.
No matter how you feel about war, I urge you to take to heart the words of Lt. General Harold “Hal” Moore. “Hate war, but love the warrior.” It is, truly, the least we can do.
For more information, please see the story at the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22425684