As far as the press in Denmark is concerned, there are two very different types of medal winners. Some win medals for personal achievement, some win them for personal sacrifice. The treatment they get varies according to how one went about earning the award.
If you are a sportsman and have been lucky enough to win a potentially lethal handball competition, albeit on an international scale, you are welcomed home with a fighter escort for your airplane and a huge ding-dong public parade around the city in an open top bus, champagne provided on board, and you get to enjoy the adulation of the public swooning at the sight of you and your oh-so hard won gold gong. Politicians appear and speeches are made in your honour. And let’s not forget the party afterwards.
If, on the other hand, you have been abroad defending your country, along with it’s freedom to partake in international competitions, you get sneaked home through the back door and are totally ignored by the press, the media and the public. No parade and your medal comes in the post. No champagne. No adulation. No politicians. No speeches. Bugger all.
Apparently, risking being hit by a loose handball in the heat of battle is more hazardous than risking being blown up, shot, or injured by shrapnel and the like, in the service of your country… Not to mention the risk of life in general.
Having been shot at on more than one occasion, I can tell you, it isn’t. Give me the handball any day. I never saw any real casualties on a bloody handball court.
Our returning soldiers are met by customs officials and drug sniffing dogs. After all, they have just returned home from “Opium City” and “Hash Central”. Who knows what they may have brought home as a souvenir. Can’t have that sort of thing going on, can we?
Luckily, a brave few are taking up the challenge. I found this article in the Jyllands Postens News in English section. Here’s a quote;
We’re almost treated like criminals,’ Kim Jacobsen, an Army chaplain, told Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper. ‘To this very day there hasn’t been a single official reception given for the soldiers who’ve come home. They’re just pushed in through the back door.’
Just one month prior to the return of Jacobsen and his fellow soldiers, the Danish men’s handball team – newly-crowned as European champs – was met at the airport by media hordes and honoured with an F-16 fighter escort.
Captain Søren Bo Jensen of the Home Guard said he had nothing against sports stars being recognised, but he said the difference in the two receptions was ‘disheartening’.
‘Politicians should invite us to a reception at parliament, and parties’ defence spokespersons – who sent the boys into the war – should buy the champagne,’ said Jensen. ‘I haven’t seen a single politician at any of the homecoming parades we’ve held ourselves. The soldiers are there on crutches and fathers are crying because their sons didn’t make it home.’
I agree with Captain Jensen. Disheartening is putting it mildly. Scandalous is what I would call it. How does one compare the one with the other?
Another quote from a section at the end of the article;
Karsten Nonbo, the defence spokesperson for the prime minister’s Liberal Party, is pushing for the creation of a Flag Day to be observed annually for those who have fought for Denmark.
‘We ought to treat soldiers like the men of honour they truly are,’ he said. ‘But I don’t think parades are something for Danes. And many of the soldiers just want to go home with their families when they arrive at the airport, rather than chat with politicians.’
I agree with part of that. They do want to get home to their families and enjoy a spot of recreational leave. But what’s to stop them having an official welcome home parade in the town centre and being officially presented with their service medals and honouring their fallen comrades fourteen days after homecoming?
You don’t have to put them on a winners podium, you don’t have to play the national anthem for them and hang the medal round each individual neck. But you do have to give them a winners reception, an honour parade, a brass band in the background, a fly-by, some public appreciation and a beer on the house. That is the very least they deserve. Anything less is downright dishonourable.
A final quote, allegedly from Winston Churchill, who knew a thing or two about warfare, medals, honour and being shot at:
“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
Sleep well then. And thank those rough men who are there for your benefit.