100 years ago today Britain declared war on Germany and entered one of the bloodiest battles in history. But not everyone involved in the war was fighting – there were some on the frontline who risked their lives to save lives, to patch people up, to salvage humanity. They were the ying to the yang of the soldiers, and faced severe adversity themselves. These were the medics and the stretcher bearers – those tasked with life, not death.
100 years on and the human species still appears to err towards violence as a means to resolve disputes. A century more and men and women in conflict zones are still risking their lives to save others. These people are tougher than soldiers and the ultimate heroes of modern warfare. In 2009 I was asked to write a positive piece about Gaza and Israel. I chose to write about the International Red Cross Society – and some may be surprised to learn that I unearthed moving cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. And for those that consider Israeli nationals purely as aggressors – ponder on the 37,000 nurses and 25,000 physicians (40% of whom are women) currently practising. When we think of the destruction and hatred sweeping the middle east at the moment, and also touching Ukraine, South Sudan – know that there are people out there heroically working at countering death, illness and injury.
Maybe if we focussed on these heroes, it will inspire compassion rather than fuelling more hatred. It may also encourage people to enter the noblest of professions in history.