I have my personal opinions about the war, about the politicians who have led this country into it, and my doubts as to their motivations for doing so - which seem to have slid far away from the original objective, which had been ostensibly to locate and detain Osama bin Laden to put him on trial for for 9/11.
However, when you see their faces, you come to know something really important - and I think everyone who's ever had this sort of thing happen, all the soldiers parading before they go off to war and all that, probably thinks this too:-
I know these people.
I've walked up and down the High Street and watched them coming into and out of the shops, herding along their partners and kids. I have stopped in mid stride and let them pass, their arms laden with Christmas shopping as they rushed to catch the bus.
And there is now every possibility that some of them will be coming in through Wootton Basset.
I hope to whatever Gods these men and women pray to that we count them all going out, and we count them all marching back in again. But I will never think the less of these young people, because I know them, and they are good, strong people with a strong sense of duty to something that's bigger than them. I have met their gaze briefly in town, exchanged a word of greeting, maybe smiled a small smile of reassurance to them. Best of luck.
And despite the fact that this is as close as I'll ever get to know them; despite the fact that I may never know their names, or the school where they went, or what their grades were, I find myself thinking that I'd like to be grinning and holding out a hand for them to shake it when they march back, and to be the first in line to offer them a pint when they come into the Green Dragon.
On the house.
Because when it's locals going, it doesn't feel abstract any more. It somehow seems personal.
So, the question I want to ask all of you is this. What have your personal experiences been, either as civilians watching the local soldiers / sailors / airmen walking by, kit in hand, heading for the train, or as the service personnel making their long, long walk to the mustering point and then the trek to God knows where?
No politics. Bury the cynicism and contempt for Westminster in the back garden tonight. I just want to know the world, and your feelings through your eyes.