My dad was a former soldier who died in 2012. A few years earlier, I remember one of our last outings together. It was a few days before Remembrance Day when we decided to go into central Manchester by bus. Growing up, time alone with dad had been rare - he had four other children, three jobs and a strong willed wife, so I always treasured these moments.
I dressed carefully in my traditional Muslim clothes of silky floral dress, matching trousers with a lightly draped headscarf. Monday-Friday I would dress in my 'London' clothes - jeans and jacket or whatever, but today I had dressed to please him and show my respect. I remember that Dad, spiffy in his white silk suit, nodded his approval when he saw me. We strode out together, crossed over the road to the shopping centre, when dad suddenly turned and asked if I had any change. I gave him a couple of pounds and he went over to an elderly man stood outside a shop wearing medals and holding a box of poppies. Dad put the money in the bucket and picked out two poppies and gave me one. Typical of my father, nothing else was said. The poppies on our lapels raised a few eyebrows as we walked round the shops. Both English and Muslim looked surprised. Dad was oblivious and I ignored it; used to being scrutinised for so little. But as we passed the same spot going home on the bus later that day, I reflected on the brief moment that I had witnessed there on the street. There had been a certain look in both men's eyes, as they exchanged poppies and pins. Emotions went unspoken. But something else was passed between the plastic, metal and paper. A silent bond, a mutual respect and recognition that I understood, due to my short time in British Army. It was a bond that said: Muslim, Catholic, atheist, whatever - we are brothers in arms.
In his younger days, my father fought on the frontline for the British Indian Army. He rarely spoke about his time doing service, and his silence had always irritated me somewhat - why didn't he just tell us a few stories at least? But now I understood. There was too much to cover, too much to say, that words couldn't do justice to. And actually actions were more important than words. Action was what counted. It counted back then and it counted now. Dad had walked over to his fellow war veteran and shown his support by buying the poppies. That was all that was needed.
I believe poppies have a significant role to play today, not only in remembering the men and women who lost their lives for us to be here today, but also a way of bringing society together. When you join The British Army it doesn't matter where you come from, what you talk like, what religion you believe in - all that matters is that you serve your country and support your fellow soldiers. Lets all wear poppies this Sunday and remember the men and women who did incredible, brave things for the good of all fellow soldiers and countrymen. And lets remember the words of the writer Michael Faber: "Humans need to sniff each other and not bite. We are all parcels of skin, flesh and bone, trying to stay alive." We have more in common than we think.
Azi is author of Muslim Girl with the SAS www.aziahmed.com
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