AFDIt’s Armed Forces Weekend and it has two purposes, apparently.  It aims to raise “public awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces”. But it also “gives the nation (sic) an opportunity to Show Your Support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families and from veterans to cadets”.

Helpfully the website suggests ways to do so.  We can see, thanks to a map of Great Britain and lots of little Union flags, where there are flag raising ceremonies, beating the retreats and marches to head along to.  There’s a page with suggestions on the sorts of parties to hold among your family and friends if you cannot find an offical event to participate in – and advice on how to share your photos.  There’s a Facebook page for you to visit to show your support and a AFD Goodies page where you can purchase bunting, hand sized flags and big banners, all emblazoned with more of red, white and blue and big bold statements like “honour our armed forces past and present”.

Is my distaste for all this really so transparent?  Good.

It’s not as though I’m a pacifist.  I was once, borne of natural anti-authoritarian sentiment but affirmed by the study of various wars and their impacts on populations and politics as a history student.  But I do accept that there are sometimes wars that need to be fought and that having a well-resourced armed forces is as relevant to a nation adopting neutrality as much as a pugilistic bent.

And it’s not even the political distortion inherent in the designation of a weekend for Armed Forces, nor in the language and symbols used to sell the concept.  Nope, I can see through their cunning plan.  Let them wrap themselves in the Union flag and attempt to make us all feel like a single nation in the process.

Moreover, I can see through the attempts at cod psychology.  That if we do not get involved or somehow “show our support”, ergo, we are against our armed forces.  That the bigger geo-political issues should not get in the way of acknowledging that these people are brave actors on our behalf, doing a job most of us would baulk at.  To not participate is to imply that we do not agree with these notions.  In some politicians and generals’ tiny minds.

My issue is with the need for it at all.  I grew up honouring the contribution made by those who go to war on our behalf.  It’s a bit of a tradition in my family for starters, so I have close up and personal accounts to inform me.  And even as a teenager, in some kind of anti-rebel rebellious stance, I always made sure to attend the Remembrance Sunday service and silence at the local cenotaph.  Somehow, it seemed like the least I could do, for all those holders of familiar surnames imprinted immortally on its walls.  So many of them, far too young.

We do not need an Armed Forces day or weekend to honour their contribution;  we have Remembrance day for that.  And because of its attachment to the Armistice of World War One, we are encouraged to place our remembrance in its proper context.  That the greatest thing to celebrate and honour – always – is peace and the ceasing of battle.

The thing that really sticks in my craw?  The idea that by purchasing a little bit of plastic tat and waving it enthusiastically at marching ranks in a parade, we are honouring these men and women.  The whole concept of this weekend is designed to seal over the cracks and hide the inconvenient truth.

That still we allow our politicians to play fast and loose with people’s lives by sending them into illegal, inappropriate and ill-thought out conflagrations.  That we are quite content to destroy people’s lives, homes and communities – not here but in whatever amphitheatre we have chosen for the purpose of flexing our muscles – because the greater global good somehow demands it.

Far from here, it is easy to forget that the biggest casualties of war, no matter how just, are women, children and old people.  Needless to say, we pull out when reconstruction is still a planner’s dream and invest little in repairing the physical, emotional and mental damage inflicted on civilian populations.  No amount of the handing out of sweeties to weans repairs the trauma caused by fear and loss dominating your life over a sustained period.

Neither are we particularly mindful of the trauma sustained by our armed forces.  Oh, they get better NHS treatment than before but still it is down to charities to attempt to repair the obvious and hidden damage.  And this veneration of everything armed forces is double-edged for them.  Sure, the media are more willing to promote their stories and their cause but a whole host of new charities has sprung up spreading the jam of their fundraising efforts still further.  Even big business has jumped on the bandwagon -  Tesco is currently running a goodies parcel initiative, whereby you pay and they get the credit.  Ultimately it results in less funding from all our pockets for vital recovery and rehab work with veterans.

There is something distasteful too at the very idea that we – a richly resourced kingdom in so many ways – should be supporting our armed forces by sending home comforts to the front line.  There is little honour in paying people a pittance for doing the most dangerous job there is, of wrangling with them over pension and benefit entitlements when they return, broken, and of expecting their families and communities to make their sojourn in dangerous places bearable by regular supplies of shaving foam, jam and batteries.

No, if you truly want to honour our armed forces this weekend, ignore the artifice of the official celebrations. Instead, take yourself off to your local memorial and spend a moment or two saying thanks.  Then come home and write to your MP demanding that the money being spent on this weekend’s charade is diverted into the reparation and restoration of lives and communities laid waste by recent activities.  At home and abroad.