Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

I was out the other day with a new group of people, one of which commented that she wondered what the point of taking Remembrance Day off of work was.  Do people really take a moment and reflect?  Or do they do, as she does, sleep-in and watch daytime television?

The Engineer jumped in really quickly to prevent me from losing it because he knows how angry this thinking makes me.

Since I was a child, Remembrance Day has always greatly affected me.

Perhaps because my grandfather passed away on November 10th and I have always associated this time with remembering.

Or maybe because my great-uncle died shortly after landing on the beaches of Normandy.

Or, the most likely reason of them all, like most people in our country and world, seeing the valour, honor and pure selflessness that so many men and women have shown in serving for their country.

Watching the coverage of the ceremony this morning in Ottawa, I heard an interesting quote I want to share.  Military historian and author Jack Granastein said this:  "Remember why we fought. Never for aggression, or for territory, or for spoils. Only for right reasons.  For our friends, for our allies, our values especially for our freedom, democracy.  We only ever fought for the right causes.  And there aren't many countries that can say that.  It's important to remember."

In May, I wrote about visiting my great-uncle's grave in France. I wrote about the Iraq war and how I didn't really understand why we were there.  I take that back.  Since then, I have done much research and spoken to some veterans who were there. I really respect the effort our Canadian forces are doing in Afghanistan.  They are working to keep out the Taliban.  They are fighting to protect those that are not able to protect themselves.  They are making the world a better place. We have lost 152 of them.

On my way to the beach today, around 10:45, I ran into a small marching group heading to the local war memorial.  I could hear the pipes long before I could see them, and quickly went to watch.  Led by a man in his motor-scooter holding a "Lest We Forget" flag, was a piping group (one of which was a Chinese woman - I love that about Canada).  Behind them were a few veterans (including a woman!) and behind them was a group of about 12 young men wearing WW2 replica uniforms.

That really moved me.  When one puts into context just how young those soldiers were, it is incredible.  Just babies.

The Engineer had an ultra-Canadian moment at 11am.  He was at a Tim Horton's surrounded by construction crews, businessmen, families when 'Last Post' started to play and EVERYONE was silent for two minutes.  

Earlier I was listening to a few women who served during WW2.  Women wanted to play their part in the war.  They were brave, got dirty, and did 'unladylike' things.  Not only did these women pave the way for future generations of women who can now serve in the military, but they also paved the way for all women to work.

When my grandfather died, I met one of his neighbors who had served in the RAF.  She told me how proud she was to help build planes.  She also told me that she was pudgy and her uniform pants were too tight.  Ha!

Captain Nichola Goddard, 1980-2006

At his funeral, our family was incredibly moved by the group of WW2 veterans who showed up.  Apparently, veterans check the obits every morning looking for fellow veterans.  They don't have to know the man, or have served with the man, or even served with the same country, but they will come and pay their respect.  I spoke about spending time in England with my grandad and how grateful I was for that.  Afterwards, one of the veterans who also happened to be British gave me his British poppy with a black center (like the ones we have this year).  They also played 'The Last Post' and each walked up to salute his picture.

Talk about ugly cry fest.

My grandfather was bitterly disappointed that he got injured before he was able to serve on D-Day.  I always waved this comment off and told him I am glad he didn't go.  I now understand his sadness.

Tom Bentley joined the British Royal Marines the moment he could, in fact he lied about his age. While training, he was in a motorcycle accident and therefore unable to go to war.  No wonder he was so disappointed.  Ever other man in his country was off to war, fighting and protecting Britain and liberating Europe.  He was sent back north.  He never got his chance.  My family might not exist if he had, which I am grateful for, but I can definitely now see it from his side.

I realize this is a long post but I just feel so strongly about this day.

We lose 400-600 WW2 veterans a week and we lost our last WW1 veteran earlier this year.
There are 152 lives that have been lost in Afghanistan and thousands who continue to serve.

If we don't make this day important, we diminish the significance these men and women have made in our lives.  If we don't make an effort to remember, one day we will forget and their sacrifices will have meant nothing.

So please take more than just a minute today.

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother" - Henry V

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.


Rose said...

Thanks for posting, Sarah. Let us remember and be grateful. Let each of us promote peace.

susan said...

There are two plaques in Canada, one on the West coast near Tofino, and one in Cape Breton.
They remind people that stop to admire the astounding views, that they are able enjoy the incredible scenery because of the selfless efforts of our veterans. I've seen both, and shed tears at both.
Sarah's Grandfather was a member of His Majesty's Royal Marines, he was very proud of being a Marine.

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