IT’S that time of year again, that fleeting moment when we pause and remember the true cost of war. When not overseas working, I can always be found around the cenotaph in Glasgow’s George Square on Remembrance Sunday for the annual service. Somehow I can’t imagine not being there, such is the way that day is indelibly etched into my being.

The reason is simple enough. I grew up in a family where the ritual of Remembrance Sunday was sacrosanct. It wasn’t a religious thing, far from it, just that my parents put great store by the need to pay homage to the sacrifice of those who had given their lives to keep us safe from the horrors of fascism.

READ MORE: David Pratt: Reflecting on decades of war in battle-scarred Afghanistan

It’s generally recognised, of course, that Remembrance Sunday is not just about paying respect to the fallen of the Second World War, but also the war that preceded it and those since. It will be 100 years this weekend since the end of that 1914-18 “war to end all wars”.

Each year I’m increasingly saddened by Remembrance Sunday. I’m saddened by the ever diminishing ranks of those who march proudly past at the end of the service, the last of a great generation who faced down Hitler and Nazism.

READ MORE: David Pratt: The plight of the people washed up from war

Each and every one of those men and women, many from across the world, stepped up to the plate when it mattered. For that, I for one am eternally grateful.

Each year I’m increasingly saddened too by the petty bickering that so often now wilfully or innocently serves only to diminish their sacrifice.

For me personally, it matters not whether one wears a red or white poppy or no poppy at all. It matters not whether some choose to identify the First World War as an “imperialist” war and the Second World War as a “just” war.

Equally it matters not to me what the nationalities of those who died were, or whether they were soldiers or civilians. As I join those paying homage on Sunday my own thoughts are always with all victims of all wars.

God knows I’ve seen enough of the toll in terms of both the dead and the living over the past 40 years as a correspondent to know for certain that no one war is more deserving of our remembrance or shame than any other.

In that time, too, I’ve learned that for those unfortunate enough to have been caught up in conflict its impact takes many forms.

The National:

Fighting in Sarajevo scarred the lives of countless families 

I well recall the words of my very elderly landlady Safeta when I lived in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo in the wake of the wars that devastated the former Yugoslavia from 1991-2002.

Safeta was a Bosnian Muslim and her husband was a Serb. For almost three years they had survived the hunger, privations and violence of the Sarajevo siege.

Then one day the constant bombardment proved too much, and Safeta’s husband collapsed from a stroke, dying in her arms.

Shortly afterwards, it was the turn of both her sons and daughter to fall to the sniper’s bullet while running the gauntlet daily to a nearby outdoor standpipe to fill buckets with badly needed clean water.

During the last winter of the nearly four-year blockade, the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, Safeta herself collapsed, lying alone for three days on the freezing floor of her shrapnel scarred kitchen before being discovered.

“Just remember, David,” she told me late one night as we sat drinking tea, recalling those years we had both spent during the war.

“War is an anaesthetic. When the guns are firing, we feel nothing, we are numb; it is with peace that we feel pain.”

Some years ago, I heard that Safeta had died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, but I’ll never forget her words that cold autumn night in Sarajevo. For so many, the pain of war often remains bottled up only to be released later.

The National:

This Sunday I will again remember that, for if there is one truism about Remembrance Sunday it’s that just as we honour the dead, let us remember the living. Not just those living with the physical and mental wounds of past wars, but those the world over right now caught in the nightmare throes of conflict through no fault of their own.

As I write, United Nations reports from Iraq say some 200 mass graves have been discovered containing perhaps as many as 12,000 victims from the brutal rule of the Islamic State (IS) group and the war they prosecuted in the region.

There are pictures, too, coming from Yemen of starving, maimed and emaciated children, haunting reminders of those skeletal figures from the charnel houses that were Auschwitz, Belsen or Buchenwald at the end of the Second World War.

Right now in Yemen the port of Hodeidah, through which vital food and medicines arrive that are needed to avert an impending famine, has become the epicentre of the war. Should Hodeidah be further damaged, destroyed or blocked, the toll in lives could be even more catastrophic.

IT’S an all too familiar story; one I’ve witnessed time and again from Syria to Afghanistan, Iraq to Somalia and beyond. Almost always it’s the innocent, poorest and most vulnerable who bear the brunt of wars.

As the writer Ernest Hemingway once reminded: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime”.

Yes we should remember those who bore arms and fell in battle, especially those fighting tyranny and defending democracy and freedom. Equally, though, we must never forget those, past or present, caught in a cauldron not of their making and over which they have no say.

A world without war is a wonderful thought but, alas, it is never destined to be. All the more reason, then, to constantly remind ourselves of the human cost such carnage brings. Only then can we hope to keep at bay war’s all-consuming monster. Squabbling over how we pay our respects to the victims of war has no part in this.

Yes, as always I’ll be in George Square for the Service of Remembrance this Sunday. During the two minutes’ silence Safeta’s words about peace and pain will, as always, echo in my head. The faces of others like her that I’ve met will also fleetingly make their appearance in my mind’s eye. All are impossible to forget.