As we have approached Remembrance Day – I have been ruminating over what this day is: a day to remember.
Rightly so, we focus on the soldiers who have fought and sacrificed everything. We see their photos and honour the dead. We proudly display the photos and medals of our forefathers, family, friends who have served or who are currently serving.
With the world as it is today – I remember what they sacrificed, fought and often died for.
Being in my 50s, I grew up knowing soldiers who had returned from WWII.
They were friends of my grandparents, neighbours, friends. My school bus driver often regailed us with funny stories of his time in Europe and the men of that generation that farmed, raised bees, drove busses, worked in stores like regular folks but would be missing fingers, legs, eyes, would have arthritis and lung issues and other ailments that they never really talked about. There were others that took to drink, that “worked with demons” from the war. And once a year, they would march in their Legion regalia and we would gather for Remembrance Day.
And as a reporter I have interviewed them, listened to them talk to school children about their experience to pass the banner of remembrance.
They did this – they relived painful memories – because aside from fighting in the war, their second duty was to do what they could to ensure it didn’t happen again.
We need to remember not just who engages in the battles - what they fight for.
I remember one time when I was in my 20s and the Legion members were talking to kids in Jr. High. There was a tv series about WWII that was really graphic. The kids asked if that’s what the war was like.
To this day I will not forget the looks in the eyes of those veterans.
After a pause and a look to each other one of the men was trembling as he simply said, “A movie can show what it was like but it can never give you how it felt. It can never give you the smell.”
Why did they do it?
They did it because of atrocities being committed overseas. They did it because those things were intolerable to the world and because even without social media people knew very clearly and strongly that evil spreads.
They did it to stop terror. They did it to liberate countries and people. They did it to protect the same thing from spreading to their countries, their families.
And if you ever asked them if they’d do it again- the answer was always yes.
Soldiers today fight for the same reasons. They liberate. They protect. They fight for the greater good. They often die in their efforts. They sacrifice families and friends and the comforts of home.
So we need to remember not only the soldiers – but what they fight for.
In doing so we need to be vigilant when we see similar things happening again, and learn the lessons of history; learn from what the veterans have been telling us they fought against.
In remembering and honoring and embracing what they fight for – we embrace what Remembrance Day really is.
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