Blazers, medals and maroon berets

At 6:30 pm two men at London’s Victoria station were wearing blazers, medals and maroon berets. The Parachute Regiment, WW2. They had been manning their little stand collecting money since before 9:30 when I passed them on they way to work. Behind them are photos of men at war, smiling, exhausted and bloody.

They are well presented, confident and happy as Larry, back in their day they’d have eaten suicide bombers for breakfast, they are not scared. Looking around they are seemingly happy with what we’ve done with the place, content with pride and achievement.

Whilst commuters like me scurry to the safety of the suburbs, the veterans stand around bold as brass collecting money for comrades not as fortunate as themselves, one of them sits in a wheelchair.

People hurry past with mobiles clamped to ears, treating the old soldiers as invisible like they do Big Issue vendors. I give them some money, they smile with a genuine warmth and wish me a happy weekend. As I walk away the emotions of the last few days combined with their humility start me welling up.

I fight the tears on the 6:46 with all the other miserable self obsessed lemmings listening to ring tones, flinging rubbish to the floor whilst trying to look harder than the next. All of a sudden my book on Web Standards doesn’t seem so interesting, I wish I’d taken some time to talk to them about what they were doing, about their medals and lives.

I hope they’ll be there on Monday.

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