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  • As I lined up my wooden Christmas soldiers today, I thought of the places kept safe, and the places torn apart by military forces. I thought of the ideas and the politics of warfare, I thought about the people inside the uniforms today and how they might be doing and whether or not they were with their families for the holidays.

    I thought about my father's father in the second world war and how he would never speak of his time out there in Africa saying it was too awful for us to know or him to tell. I thought of my mother's uncle, my Great Uncle Tom who was a rear gunner in the Battle of Britain and hoped he was well in his South London flat and what he thinks of how the freedoms he risked his life for are used by the kids in his neighbourhood today.

    I thought of my two uncles, one my father's brother, one my mother's brother, who were paratroopers together out in Aden in the late sixties, and how I might not exist if they had not met and my Father's brother married my mother's sister so that my parents could meet at their wedding. I thought how neither men who had been paratroopers were ever quite the same again after Aden when they'd seen those things they saw, done the things they had to do, carried dead men in the desert. I thought of my mother's brother's unit on Bloody Sunday and how if he'd not have been caught drunk on Guard Duty and been in lock up pending a court martial, he'd probably have been there and wondered if he'd have opened fire on innocents along with the rest. I thought of my younger aunt's time in the RAF with her first husband, and how much more fun her tales had seemed in comparison with those other stories.

    I thought of my generation of the family, none of whom have yet been in service or gone to war but who, like my hand placing wooden soldiers, have had a choice in how we set the forces of our time up to win or fall.
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