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A Doctor and a Soldier – Remembrance Day address

November 12, 2015
This year we welcomed Mr Lee Gray to give our Remembrance Day address to the whole school. Below is his speech with references to his time as a serving Medical Officer, his dreams and career hopes as a child and playing football for England!
PE Hall

Our Remembrance Day 2015 service in our PE Hall

Ladies, Gentleman, particularly – young ladies and young gentlemen, thank you for the invitation to speak on this important day. I had the honour to serve as a Medical officer in the Army Reserves for nine years; three in a field hospital and six years with the Infantry.
Remembrance Day means something very special to me, but didn’t always.
When I was your age, I didn’t really understand Remembrance Day. There were lots of soldiers with medals and poppies and I knew it was to do with a big war, a long time ago, that both my Grandparents had been in, but I didn’t want to be a soldier, didn’t play with guns, I always wanted to be a doctor, that or play football for England.
Both my grandparents had been in the military, one was RAF ground crew for Spitfires and one was a Fusilier in the Army. Their stories of time away were never boastful, they were quietly proud to have fought for Britain.  My dad had wanted to be in the Navy but never had the chance. There is quite a bit of rivalry in the Armed forces, a lot more than Settthorns v Holmsley, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to join the Navy!
Once I had become a doctor, aged 23, training to do be a Surgeon, then emergency medicine, I wondered what it would be like to be in the Army, helping our own British soldiers, but also those of the enemy.
I joined the Royal Army Medical corps Reserves, went to Sandhurst, learnt to march, iron my uniforms, salute and polish my boots (badly). I also learnt to be part of a family that looks after each other. Every day, whether you are resting, training or going into battle.
Pretty soon after this, my unit were deployed to a war in Kosovo. Three groups of people there had been fighting each other, the Serbs, Albanians and Kosovans. These people had been fighting each other for years and the British had stepped in to stop many women, children, men from being killed.

Before we left England, I started to feel scared. Scared that I may be killed, scared that my soldiers would be killed, but I knew that if we stood together as a unit, we would hopefully be OK. These Kosovans needed the help of the British Army, and I was immensely proud to represent our country.

Army Doctors have an unusual position, our job is to save lives, but how do you do that in a war?
We carry a gun to protect ourselves and our patients, whatever the cost. Those patients are mainly British soldiers, but also civilians and sometimes enemy Soldiers.
I was lucky – I was able to save many lives whilst in our Field Hospital; people who were stuck in the middle of a horrible conflict. For any of you wanting a fulfilling career, being a doctor in a situation like that probably the best feeling in the world, I promise. I also played football for the British Army Medical team once, but we lost 4-1…

As a Regimental unit, a family, we helped each other through good times and bad. I am still friends with many of those soldiers to this day.
Two of my friends were killed whilst we were in Kosovo, when their Helicopter crashed; they were both the same age as me, had girlfriends and family back home

Every remembrance day, I think of them. Of Mark and Andy and of the hundreds of other British soldiers that have given their lives in recent years for their Country. They didn’t want glory or medals, they would probably be quite embarrassed about them. Too much fuss!  Soldiers are people, like you and me after all. They wanted, as I did, to make the world a better place.
I hope some of you will become soldiers, Officers, and maybe someday you’ll wear your uniform with pride. Hopefully you’ll never have to go to war, but if you do, be proud of what you stand for.

Remembrance Day to me is about the men and women in the Army, Air force and even the Navy. Their families and friends who worry about them whilst they are away, In Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq, wherever.
And about being proud, that you stand up for what you believe in, to protect people that cannot protect themselves, no matter what.
Thank you for listening!!

Thank you Mr Gray for sharing your story and experiences with us all #WeWillRememberThem

We tweet @BallardSchool


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