VE Day. The war was over. We had returned home, welcomed by cheers. It was the greatest feeling. "Well done!" "Welcome back!" "The war's over!" The same phrases echoed through the crowd; cheering, crying, hugging. Every person faded into a great crowd; every returning soldier stood as one, as they had at war. I felt as if I was floating, high on a cloud, somewhere else entirely.
Every house was empty that day, everyone was out - in the streets, the parks, the bars. We were all desperate for a strong pint and a good meal, stumbling into the nearest door. "Alright lads?!" The man behind the bar called, "Drinks on the house today, especially for you lot!" He smiled, nodding in the direction of our khaki green uniformed selves, standing against the backdrop of a sea of faces and beams of sunlight spilling through the open door behind us. Cheers radiated throughout the crowd once more at that, and people flooded into the room with the doorway framing the beautiful shades of the washed out blue sky that had made a timely appearance. On the best day anyone had had in years. The day we had all been waiting for, for so long.
I was surrounded by men, reunited with loved ones. There was a young man standing near my right side, arms round the necks of an older man and woman - his parents, perhaps. Tears were in their eyes, relieved at the sight of their son returning home. His head was buried in their two shoulders so irretrievably that I couldn't even glimpse his expression, although I should think it was one of relief, sorrow, joy, and pure juvenility; he looked no more than twenty after all - joined us in the latter stages of our fight presumably. There was another man - older this time, though - kneeling down by the bar, numerous arms around his torso also. His children. They couldn't have been more than about three, five and six years of age, as their mother stood proudly, tears in her eyes, behind them, waiting to hold her husband in her arms again - something she thought she might never have been able to do again the last time she saw him, his back turned as he walked away years previously.This was one of the times when the same thought struck me again, having had the realisation a hundred times previously: we were lucky to be alive, to have returned home. Not everyone made it back. There were people all over the country - our country - that weren't holding their loved ones as so many were around me. They were clutching at jumpers, pictures, anything that had been left behind of the deceased. Those that were now gone but who would never be forgotten.
We would remember them.