Our army, navy, air force, and support personnel who’ve served have always been young, proud, strong, and committed – assuaging fear and pain to preserve a free way of life wherever they’ve served.
They served in Canadian uniforms, but they didn’t serve only Canada – or Britain, France, Italy, Korea, Rwanda, Iraq, or Afghanistan, NATO, UN Peacekeeping, Kuwait, Cyprus, Congo, Somalia, Congo, and many others over our nation’s history.
Our Canadian soldiers, sailors, and flyers are a small force for such an enormous country – never conceived to defend our massive lands and endless coastlines from invasion, but to serve where people need help, in conflicts, in disasters, wherever danger is found, at home and away to liberate, to keep the peace, to keep people safe …
Time passes, people forget, people die, and remembrance of events long ago fade and give way to more recent and current events and trauma. If we’d have been there, we would be frightened out of our skins – every one of us. Not from being in the war, before the war, or just before the end of the war – but just being around war. Their fear, the enemy might shoot first, or fear the war would be over, and someone would keep shooting …
Not movie scenes, someone yelling, “CUT!” but rather a cold and miserable battlefield on November 11th, 1918 – ‘war to end all wars,’ inconveniently intersecting Spanish flu pandemic carnage. If the bullets or mustard gas didn’t kill you, and the bad weather didn’t get you, something else would.
As if remembering and celebrating the end of any horrible war will somehow prevent the next war(s), just as pandemic-neutralizing vaccines can prevent the pandemic(s).
We celebrate November 11th, Remembrance Day / Poppy Day, Armistice Day. Collective pausing at 11:00AM everywhere to remember that first 11th hour, reminder and warning that we should never take any peacetime for granted.
Is being joyless, shedding tears, the best way to remember them, those who sacrificed yesterday, or those who lost life or limb long ago?
Unfinished, life-filled – if they were here today, we’d have a parade, and we’d be cheering every one of them. The sadness, the tears, the dirge music and taps we use to remember them is for us, we lucky living and safe ones here on home soil, the true north strong and fee – Oh Canada!
Combatant lives, uniformed lives – no more and not less valuable than any civilian lives and families destroyed when soldiers go to war. With no way to bring them back, it is so important we remember them all, lest they ever be forgotten.
Flesh and blood know neither nationality nor uniform when bombs explode. Carnage of war gets lost, blood-drenched sands of time may blow away. Yet spirit and sacrifices of their heroism, those who gave lives, limbs, and innocence in service of flag and country should never be permitted to perish from our collective memory.
November 11th remembrance reminds every Canadian in different ways – that real men and women interrupted their lives, left jobs, left farms, left schools – to put their lives on the line for other people in other countries where they too often left blood, limbs, and bodies on foreign soil.