Falklands / Malvinas War: “Known Soldier” conference touches young students and veterans alike
A conference at London’s King College School of Security Studies by 1982 war veterans Julio Aro and Geoffrey Cardozo moved British students who got the opportunity to hear first-hand what an armed conflict meant for those participating in it.
The young people listened with tears in their eyes, said Aro, who was 19 when he was taken to the Falkland Islands in 1982 while doing compulsory military service, while then-Captain Cardozo landed on the islands the day the war was over to keep the British troops safe after the battle.
Fate crossed their paths in 2008 when an association of British veterans invited the Argentinean, who was seeking to help his comrades with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Cardozo had become a colonel who was fluent in Spanish so he became a translator during those days when he learned of the anguish Aro had gone through when he returned to the islands and found that 122 graves belonged to just an Argentine Soldier known only to God.
The two veterans from both sides then described the process of identifying the bodies of the 127 soldiers buried at Darwin cemetery after the war.
I buried my friends and I didn’t find them, the Argentine summarized. Cardozo never told him until the day of the farewell that he had been the one entrusted in 1982 by the British government to collect the bodies from the battlefields and give them a dignified and honorable burial. He had created the Darwin cemetery, he had placed those plaques. And before saying goodbye, he gave him the document containing all the coordinates of that meticulous work.
From that moment on, Aro began to work on the identification of the fallen, with Cardozo’s support. Thus came the Humanitarian Project Plan and the identification of 127 Argentine soldiers.
Forty years after the war, in London, they sat in front of an auditorium full of students at King’s College, organized by the British University, to tell the story of the road they traveled together. The audience had had time to study the conflict, they had a context against which to put what Julio and I told them, Cardozo explained
The gathering was held at a public research university in London, which has a War Studies Department and is one of the oldest institutions in England, through whose classrooms passed students who later became outstanding personalities in culture, art, politics, and sports worldwide. There they reviewed how the British officer was in charge of setting up the Darwin Cemetery and explained the complex operation of searching for, collecting, and identifying the bodies of the Argentine soldiers who had been left in common graves or scattered on the battlefields, before giving them the same dignified funeral with all the military honors given to the British soldiers a few months earlier, said Cardozo.
The two veterans then explained how negotiations were conducted between the governments of Argentina and Great Britain, the inhabitants of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
During the conversation with Professor Eleonora Natale, both soldiers reviewed the events that from 1982 to the present day made it possible to restore the identity of 127 Argentine fallen and highlighted as a central figure of this work the Mothers of Malvinas.
During the talk, Morris Tidball-Binz, former head of forensic medicine of the International Committee of the Red Cross, explained how this joint initiative between the United Kingdom and Argentina involved planning the design and implementation of a forensic operation using the Geneva Conventions and the Minnesota Protocol, two key instruments in the standards of best forensic practices. For Tidball-Binz, the project called for exceptional requirements for quality assurance and control, because of the work to be done.
It was a unique, wonderful experience. It was very important for the translator to feel what I wanted to say, to live it and she took the previous work of looking at some interviews I gave, of talking to us an hour before to feel my emotions and sensations to be able to express them, Aro told Infobae.
There was a very young audience and there were a lot of diplomats. We talked only about the love of neighbor, about empathy, about the work done to be able to identify our peers, and we talked about love for this cause. I repeat: the interpreter did her job very well, more than well, because, in the end, everyone had tears in their eyes, Aro explained.
Geoffrey Cardozo noted: KCL prepared its students with a course in the weeks prior to the presentation so that they were informed about the history of the conflict and could better assimilate the presentation and make the most of it. There were a few questions, but most of them, the more intimate and scrutinizing ones, were asked during the informal reception that followed the presentation.
There were kids who apologized for being Argentines and not knowing about this work, this process. They were all very excited. There was one that particularly broke us: they had organized a kind of toast at a side table, and we couldn’t get there because the kids stopped us so they could keep talking, added Aro.
Among them came a young man who moved them. He was teary-eyed and told me that he was 3 years old when, in 1982, his father died in Malvinas, that he did not want to be a military man but a doctor, but he went and fell there. He knew all our work, he has followed us for years and only wanted to congratulate us… He talked and could not stop crying! The only thing I could do was to hug him.
That young man crying was teacher Ben Lovett, whose father was a soldier in the 3rd Parachute Regiment. Between 2009 and 2013, he and his family lived on the Islands, where he taught history in school. It is important to reconstruct the fragmented past and make some sense of it. The pain and suffering of the families on both sides are evident even today, and is seen when they all visit the islands and remember their loved ones, Lovett said.
Present during the presentation were diplomats from the British Foreign Office, officials from various ministries, members of the ICRC from the UK, the Falkland Islands representative in the UK, and Argentine organizations and professionals based in London. Also present was the Argentine ambassador to the UK and Ireland, Javier Figueroa, and several people who had lived and worked in the Falkland Islands. (Source: Infobae)