|Courtesy of the Guardian newspaper|
Until about two years ago, you had (among a very small number) SSAFA and the British Legion, organisations comprising veterans who devoted much time and effort to raise funds for recovered personnel and their families during times of conflict. Then came Help for Heroes, a wonderful organisation that does pretty well what it says on the tin.
This is all good stuff and a sign that the heart of the nation still beats with a care for those who defend its borders or those unable to defend themselves.
Then we started seeing the Wootton Bassett effect which started off as the outpouring of grief from the wider circles of friends of repatriated fallen servicemen and women. Eventually, the bus to Bassett became the one to board whether you knew the soldier in the hearse or not, and in many ways, is another sign that the heart of the nation still beats as it should. It perhaps took on some of the Diana Effect where people would publicly express visible grief at the death of strangers.
In recent days something has become apparent to me that forms a strange blend of encouraging and troubling. In adverts for a whole array of different products and services, most recently the mighty WeightWatchers, there has been an increase in the 'use' of the armed services (and in particular those in Afghanistan) in the advertising. The example I cite is a woman who wanted to be slim for the return of her husband from his tour of duty. In other words, it feels just a little like the men and women of our armed services are becoming commercial currency.
Part of me thinks that we have finally come to terms that we are sending people into harms way; part of me that 'heroes' is a new and very emotive and lucrative bandwagon. I am not so sure I would mind if I didn't know that some of these present day heroes, when their day is done, become very quickly forgotten when they come home and are discharged from their military units (except perhaps those who suffer horrific visible injuries, and quite rightly so).
I wonder if I am being churlish. Why shouldn't our armed forces receive some much needed publicity? I think, though, that when men and women in mortal danger become the stuff of a slimming advert, that we may have gone too far. The soldiers I have contact with, with less visible but no less life limiting injuries, do not enjoy this use of their specific risk and would value a few shekels from the profits of the companies selling their goods on the back of their sweat and toil.