Highlighting the humanity of social media

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Social media often has the power to highlight the key issues that resonate with us as a society.

This week, it brought more than 300 strangers together on Armistice Day to honour a fallen World War II veteran whose passing would have otherwise gone unnoticed, his final story left untold.

Harold Jellico “Coe” Percival died peacefully in a nursing home on 25 October in Lytham St Annes at the age of 99. Serving in the RAF Bomber Command during World War II, he never married and had no close friends or family to attend his funeral.

Noting an appeal for former service members to attend the service, Afghanistan veteran, Sergeant Rick Clement took to Twitter and Facebook to ensure the fallen soldier would not pass without being remembered. His Facebook post read:

“I need a big favour from any military or ex-serving members. This fallen solider at 99-years-old is having a funeral on Monday and he has no family to attend. If you’re in the area, give him the send off he deserves. This guy needs and deserves your help.”

A veteran passing unmourned struck a collective chord – the message went viral. People from as far away as Canada and Australia responded with flowers, cards and calls and over 300 individuals attended his funeral on Armistice Day to pay tribute to Harold’s life.

When we examine the impact that social media has on our daily lives, we acknowledge that it is more than just cold technology – it has the power to elicit an emotional response and bring us together. On a day in which Britain honours those who gave their lives for their country, we were inspired to answer a digital call of duty to ensure that one soldier will not be forgotten.

Or, as stated by Reverend Alan Clark during the funeral: “We marvel at the power of the printed word, whether on the paper or on the screen.”