Weekly Photo Challenge: Sunset


I guess the trick in this week’s challenge is to know whether a pick is really sunset or someone slipping in a dodgy sunrise…

But Sunset has another significance for soldiers, more than simply the going down of the sun and the closing of the day but a time to remember those who have gone before and sometimes to also mark the end of an era…here Sunset is a sad but beautiful tune played during Beating the Retreat as the flag is lowered…

This photo was taken on July 20, 1989 at the closing ceremony for the home of the First Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, at Dieppe Barracks in Sembawang, Singapore. The following month, in our own version of East of Suez, the battalion and its supporting force, began its relocation back to New Zealand, ending 32 years of continuous service in South East Asia.

As the battalion marched off that parade ground, a place of so many memories, for the last time, the roll of honour of those who had not gone home was read – a particularly sad moment for many of us as we had lost a number of friends through accidents in that last tour…remembering is particularly poignant here at the moment with the news on Wednesday of the death in combat of a second NZSAS soldier near Kabul…

Michael Yon wrote this on 24 September after a young soldier from his tent in 4-4 Cav was killed…

This whole tent is empty now. Chazray is gone and his buddies must be checking their emails in another tent. There were two more KIAs who were shot and so the internet was blacked out. One was shot in the chest and the other in the stomach. Very saddening. Families have been notified and so the internet is back on. It’s strange to see Chazray on the news and then look over at his empy cot and see his picture taped to the door. The video says he ran over the IED but he actually stepped on it but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he is missed by so many people.

While a soldier can always be replaced – no one is ever indispensable – the gap they leave is a different story altogether…the empty bed space, the position in the Prezzies rugby team, that spot in the bar where they always sat, the spot in the family photos where Dad should be…

I didn’t know LCpl Leon Smith who was killed during a pre-emptive operation against insurgents near Kabul last week. I did know Cpl Doug Grant who was killed a few week earlier while doing the business against insurgents in Kabul. I remember him as a young soldier, third from the right in the back from of this photo, quiet and professional with the burning desire to learn demonstrated by many young soldiers of that period – when the camp library was shifted to a new building around that time, someone did some analysis of library loan patterns and found that the large proportion of professional military book loaning was done by JNCOs and soldiers, creating more than few ripples in the pond – the sort that so often answer a higher calling and earn the sand beret and winged dagger…in Dougie’s case, going back for a second time…

We are the Pilgrims, Master…We shall go always a little further…It may be beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow…Across that angry or glimmering sea…

Sunset can mean so much more than the simple disappearance of a ball of burning hydrogen and helium…

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3 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Sunset

  1. This is one of the most poignant powerful reads I have seen in a long time. I thank you deeply for sharing this with me. Thank you for reminding me that: Sunset can mean so much more than the simple disappearance of a ball of burning hydrogen and helium…

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