BY JOSÉ LUCENA
Any ‘kill in action’ is always sad. It does not matter if it is a military, a policeman or a fireman. It is a life that has been lost, a family that has been broken, and a country that has lost a citizen. It is a loss.
Conducting a ceremony to honour those who have been killed in action is not a simple obligation, it is a way of keeping their memories alive and never forgetting that they gave away what is the most sacred: their life.
All around the world countries tend to honour their fallen servicemen with a ceremony with common elements, such as: a wreath with a ribbon; a small military band, mainly with horns and drums; a military armed force to honour those who had fallen; a chaplain to say a prayer and finally an honour, which can be a military or a civilian authority.
In Portugal, ceremonies honouring the fallen servicemen can be isolated or part of a military ceremony. In each case the ceremonies are conducted the same way. The only difference is that in a Military Ceremony, there is normally no wreath.
Therefore, I strongly believe that the ceremony that is being conducted near the Colonial War Veterans monument in Lisbon is the most meaningful one. I will describe to our readers the different moments of the ceremony.
In the first place, we start by positioning the different players. The small military band stands beside the monument, the military armed force, normally a section, forms near the front of the monument and the two ratings carrying the wreath are positioned close to the monument.
After the authority’s arrival, the ratings carrying the wreath start marching towards the front of the monument in order to lay the wreath. The authority approaches the wreath, and in a symbolic way he or she adjusts the ribbon. After making a sign of respect the authority starts moving backwards to a different position. From that position the ceremony has just started with the military band tapping the silence tap. With this tap we are invited to prepare our souls to think about those who just had left us. Then, the military force presents arms and the honouring of the fallen servicemen tap is executed. During this tap, the present military is expected to salute. After this tap the chaplain says a prayer and then the dawn tap is played as a sign of hope for a better future.
And so the ceremony ends.
This model is, of course, just one example of how a ceremony honouring the fallen servicemen can be carried on. In other countries, other models are used, but in the end the most relevant and important matter is to honour those men and women.
*About the author
José Lucena is a Portuguese Navy Officer, with the rank of Commander. His present post is Protocol Adviser to the Chief of General Staff of Portuguese Armed Forces. Since 2010 his tasks have been related to protocol, diplomacy (Defence Attachés) and Military Ceremonies.
Photos Credits: General Staff Portuguese Armed Forces