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They buried a hero today in the English village where I live. Jeff “JJ” Doherty had only just turned 20. He died in Afghanistan the week before last while serving in the British Army. The patrol he was with came under fire from the Taliban. Private Doherty was killed along with one of his comrades.
This afternoon, as the bell in the parish church slowly chimed, Private Doherty’s coffin, wrapped in the Union Jack, was borne by horse drawn carriage down the main village street. His family and friends – devastated and dignified – walked behind. The entire village turned out to pay its respect. We filled the pavement on both sides of the road and watched the cortege pass in silence. All you could hear was the tolling of the bell, the horses’ steps and the breeze blowing through the trees.
Private Doherty was buried with full military honours. After the coffin was lowered into the ground, there was a volley of rifle fire from a detachment of the Parachute Regiment, in which he had served. The last post was played. Private Doherty’s family threw roses into his open grave then turned and walked back towards the village. His young brother, who is not yet seven, held a soldier’s hand. Tears ran down the poor lad’s face.
It was moving beyond words to tell you the truth. To think of a boy who left the local school just four years ago; who knew the same fields, woods, villages and towns around Southam as my own kids; who just a few years back was exploring them all, as mine do now. To think how he lost his life so far away from home on a hot, dust-filled day in the desert. To think of the terrible knock on the door his family received and to think of the pain they are going through now.
I am not seeking to make any political points here. Whatever your views, I hope you can salute this young man’s bravery and pray that his family finds peace. Private Doherty, of course, is just one victim of the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. What we saw and felt today in our little piece of England, many others across the world have been through before. Others have it still to come.
Sometimes in our IP community people get angry. They hurl accusations and abuse, and see only the darkest motives in the actions and words of those with whom they disagree. But, in fact, all that is really happening is that there is a difference of opinion about something or other. Of course, IP is important. It is valuable. It has a profound affect on people’s lives. But maybe sometimes we all need to get just a little bit of perspective.