[FOUNTAIN]A dilemma worth havingIn Istanbul, Turkey, a traditional military band performs every day in front of Dolmabahce Palace. A dozen armor-clad guards with swords and axes surround about 20 performers. It is a popular tourist attraction, re-enacting the event that the Yeniceri corps, the bodyguards to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, performed in front of the palace. Similarly, Namdaemun and Deoksu Palace present guards dressed in Joseon-period costumes, staging the changing of the guard. These guards are virtually actors dressed in traditional military outfits.
A similar scene happens in London. At 11 a.m. on weekdays, the changing ceremony of the British Household Cavalry takes place in front of Buckingham Palace. The cavalrymen parade in graceful traditional military uniform, with a feathered helmet and shiny metal breastplate. The Household Cavalry is also in charge of guarding other palaces and government complexes in Great Britain.
The Brits call them the “fierce and ferocious warriors.” The members of the Household Cavalry are soldiers in active service belonging to an elite unit responsible for mounted ceremonial duties and armored reconnaissance operations. The Formation Reconnaissance Regiment ride armored vehicles or whippet tanks to penetrate into the rear of enemy lines. Their goal is to disturb the enemies or clear mines to open a route for friendly forces to advance. In a more general sense, they are a special attack unit.
Popular British musician James Blunt served in the unit as a captain and was sent to the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the late 1990s to carry out armored reconnaissance duty. In April 2002, he was on duty for the funeral of the Queen Mother. Traditionally, the Household Cavalry has the honor of assisting members of the British royal family and the duty of dangerous missions on the front line. Essentially, the concept of noblesse oblige is applied to the positioning of the soldiers.
Prince Harry, the second son of Prince Charles and the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, has joined the Blues and Royal Regiment under the Household Cavalry. He reportedly strongly hopes to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan and insists he would rather give up military service altogether if he cannot be dispatched to risky regions. While British citizens seem pleased with the boldness of the 21-year-old prince, the royal family and the government are concerned about his safety.
I wish we could enjoy the luxury of such a dilemma. Some of the candidates running for the local election scheduled next month seem to be troubled by their sons’ military service.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.