By Sam Pratt
On Friday 18 October 2019, His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio officially launched the 2019 Poppy Week in honour of the military and in remembrance of their servicemen and women who lost their lives along the line of duty.
While addressing both retired and active servicemen at State House, President Bio said that the event marked an important day in the calendar of the Sierra Leone Ex-Servicemen’s Association (SLESA). He said as a nation-member of the Commonwealth, the National Remembrance Day was of special significance because they were remembering, in a very special way, those compatriots who made the supreme sacrifice for the peace and dignity of not only Sierra Leone but also the wider world.
President Bio mentioned that there was no better sacrifice than laying one’s life for the survival of fellow man, adding that that was the sacrifice they made years ago by deciding to enlist into the army. He noted that as young school leavers, they had a variety of other walks of life but he took the bold decision to select a military career, saying that that was a manifestation of their love for the country.
“As we remember and honour our fallen heroes and heroines at this time, we should also not lose sight of those who continue to live with the scars of war and the many innocent civilians who lost their lives. The military, as their core role, had always come in at crucial times in the security of the state and the importance of their contributions to the survival of our country cannot be overemphasized.
“The experience of the 11 years’ civil war still lingers in the minds of many people and all efforts should be made through good governance to avoid wars that cause undue sufferings on mankind. I want to admonish the rank and file of the Sierra Leone Ex-Servicemen’s Association to be more focused, peaceful and law-abiding so as to be able to contribute to the security and development of the state with sincerity of purpose,” he said.
Secretary-General of the 2019 Planning Committee, Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Dominic Sowa, said that it was as per tradition in this time of the year to remember the comrades who made the supreme sacrifice during the first and second World Wars and by extension the 11 years’ rebel war in Sierra Leone. He commended the Government through the Ministry of Defense for their support to the Association and also expressed appreciation to President Bio for increasing the pension of retirees.
A traditionally long week of events, the poppy week is normally observed by Commonwealth member States since the end of the First World War in honour of servicemen and women killed in all conflicts.