Ben Griffin – a few words:
This is the first Remembrance Sunday in four years that I won’t be at the Cenotaph with Veterans For Peace UK, because I’m in Beirut. But I am thinking about them today, all the extraordinary men I’ve met with their stories of extraordinary courage – not the ‘courage’ of the war propagandists who are in full ‘patriotic’ flow right now, but the kind of courage that comes from reaching deeper into your own soul than most people will ever have the bravery to do and then exposing to the world what you found there in service of revealing the truth about immoral wars.
This kind of courage is the most powerful of all and I have been privileged to see it at work close up and be inspired by it. I cannot fully express what this group of inspiring guys has meant to me as a peace activist, and Ben Griffin their founder and coordinator, is now retiring. How inadequate those titles are for all that Ben has meant to so many and all he has achieved. Just read the comments under his letter on the VFP UK website for proof of that (link below):
What Ben has done is momentous. Watch any of his talks online, especially his stunning speech at the Oxford Union, and you will get a sense of this man’s absolute integrity, deep humanity and the sheer moral force which drives him.
As a member of the SAS who had reached what many consider to be the peak of a glittering military career, Ben left the army and told the world about the dehumanising training and damaging conditioning the armed forces inflict on recruits and the part he, himself, played in raids on people’s homes in Iraq who were then sent to be tortured.
Ben blew the lid on it all and defied a High Court injunction to silence him every time he spoke out. That he did all this whilst dealing with the psychological fallout of his experiences is all the more amazing.
Ben’s letter of farewell is brief and to the point, no nonsense just like the man himself. But he has made a difference. As I said to someone recently, God knows how many lives he’s set on the right track with his work and I have to say that to watch someone with a gift for influencing people use it for the good has been a privilege for me. If anyone deserves a rest now it is Ben Griffin. He’s already done more to make this world a better place than most manage in ten lifetimes.
Below is Ben’s retirement letter along with the link to it on the VFPUK website. Please do read the moving tributes to him posted in the comments, one of which, written by Fiona Gallagher, I have published after Ben’s words because it deserves particular attention:
Dear Veterans for Peace
Since 2005, I have been persistently engaged in anti-war activity. I have given my all and it has taken its toll.
When I summon the energy for one more meeting, one more speech or one more action, I no longer have the capacity to absorb the negative psychological by-products.
Difficult as it is, the time has come for me to accept that everyone has a limit and I passed mine some time ago.
At the conclusion of this year’s Annual Gathering, I will retire from Veterans for Peace.
The table attached to this letter spells out in detail the tasks I presently carry out for VFP and information helpful to the process of handover. I await instruction from the Policy group.
I look forward to seeing you all at our Annual Gathering.
I remain at heart a Veteran for Peace.
The future is unwritten.
Comment by Fiona Gallagher:
What can i say that hasn’t already been said so eloquently and by so many?
You really have no idea how you have helped people and what strides forward many have made because of your honest and direct actions.
When I first became aware of you, I was just another of the many folk out there living with the consequences of the actions of the British military. Being a young girl of 7½ in 1976, living in Derry City, enduring house raids, harassment and most horrifically, the murder of my brother Jim by a British soldier. I was the one person who never imagined making any contact, never mind a friendship, with a former soldier. Yet here we are, 5 years after finally meeting and I would call you my friend.
And I do so with pride. I’ve made many friends among the VFP and still keep contact. For such a young man to have faced down the military elite, the peddlers of war, the angry, vitriolic ‘patriots’, the soldiers still fighting a war within themselves that can’t stand down even though their service is done.. Ben, that takes some doing! Don’t diminish that achievement.
I want to say thanks, for helping me see the humanity in people I never really viewed with those eyes.. As I said at the conference in 2015, I feel I gained healing from the people I would have considered my enemy. I feel like the circle has been completed. Enjoy your retirement with the family. Take it easy and just float through life.. But you still owe me a pint!!!
Love and best wishes Ben x
Alison: and to end this tribute, whenever I hear this song and reflect on the lyrics, it always makes me think of Ben Griffin: