Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bravery, by any other name

I'm with Francis on this (and with Terry):

I’m glad that British military and civilian forces are in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban – a barbaric enemy of humankind – and helping the Afghan people build their country. I’m proud of our men and women, in uniform or otherwise, and trust their judgement on whether the struggle is worth it.

As for the fallen, we will remember them.

Exchange 'British' for 'German' and I would still agree, though the ISAF mission is even more unpopular here (i.e. Germany) than there.

I'm in London at the moment, and it's Remembrance Sunday, so maybe I'm being overly sentimental about this, but I think it's worth pointing out with reference to the above that the Federal Republic of Germany, until recently, did not even have a medal recognising bravery in combat. The first ones were awarded in July this year, to four soldiers in Afghanistan:

On 20th October, 2008 in the northern Afghan region of Kunduz a suicide bomber blew himself up near a vehicle carrying Henry Lukacz, Jan Berges, Alexander Dietzen and Markus Geist. The explosion killed two German paratroopers as well as five Afghan children. At the risk of their lives the four soldiers, between 28-33 years of age, rescued a seriously wounded soldier and stood by another one trapped inside the burning vehicle.

It was only recently, in fact, that the German defense minister was willing to use the word 'war' (Krieg) to describe the operation.

I happened to use the word 'tapfer' (brave) in a phone conversation with The Wife earlier tonight (in a very different context): she said the term comes across (linguistically) as a bit old-fashioned.

Which is unfortunate.

As there is no better word to describe the acts of staff-sergeant Geist and master-sergeants Lukacz, Berges and Dietzen.

Which should not be forgotten.

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