Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembering to Remember (Remembrance Day)

Remembering to Remember (Remembrance Day)

Yesterday, November 11th, was Remembrance Day in Canada, the day we are supposed to take a moment to think about and remember our veterans of war. They even give us a full day off from school and selected jobs (if it falls on a week day) just so we can take a brief moment out of our day to do this.

Many take this as just another woohoo day, as in “Woohoo, I don’t have to go to work (or school)!”

The drive to remember and think about the veterans and why they suffered to protect others seems to have been pushed further and further to the back of the closet over the years – at least as far as what I remember there used to be for advertising, teaching, and word of mouth. And that comes from before the current age of over-communication and everyone having their own technological grip on the whole world in their pants pocket.

The honored veterans seem to get older and older, fewer and fewer, as they age and die off.

Does that mean the end is coming soon for the last of our veterans and for Veterans Day? (Read on before you make judgments)

Like many others, I have a Grandfather who was a veteran. He still is a veteran; he just isn’t with us anymore. I never knew him, or had a chance to meet him, and I know very little about him. He passed away as a young man while my own father was still a boy. The war didn’t kill him, but it certainly did change him.

When we see pictures and advertising for Remembrance Day, we always see the famous red poppy and a picture of an elderly man in an old uniform from decades ago.

By the visions of what we see today as being our honored veterans, my grandfather probably would have passed by many people in those last years of his life without ever being considered or recognized as a veteran. After all, he didn’t die while fighting and he never grew old. He never made appearances at events to honor veterans, wearing the usual outdated looking uniform, his hands twisted, face lined, and hair whitened by age. He was just like the veterans coming home today.

No, he was a young man with a young family. A young man who somewhat fell apart because of the great trauma he survived fighting to save others. And when his term serving in World War II was done he likely didn’t know how to come back to the life and family he left behind. He re-enlisted to go back to what was likely the only life he now knew how to live.

My grandfather earned a few low level medals. And although he may not have ceremoniously been given any of what was considered the big important medals, he earned the most important honor of all – the respect due every man, woman, and child like him from those he fought with, against, and for. And that includes all those who continue to come after the people of that day, those fighting the wars that still rage around our globe.

On Remembrance Day we should remember to think about not just the soldiers who died, suffered, and those who came back irrevocably changed. We should also remember to think about the innocent lives, the victims of war who had no choice and were never soldiers. We should also remember to think about ourselves and how our world and our lives would be different if these men and women never went to fight for anyone.

And we should remember that new veterans of war are being made every single day.

I am not proud to say I have a Grandfather who was a war veteran. There is no pride to be found in the horror and atrocities of war. But I do honor and respect him for all that he sacrificed, as all veterans should be honored and respected, no matter what war they fought in or how old or youthful their faces may be.



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