On November 11th in Canada, we take a moment out of our day at 11am to remember those who have fallen in war to define and defend our rights and freedoms as a nation and a people. We call it Remembrance Day and in the British tradition, we symbolize it with a poppy.
I am of the fortunate age that while I never had to experience the terror of war myself, I am old enough to have spoken with many of my family members who have served in the Canadian military both in times of war and in times of peace.
My great grandfather Francis Sowden served in the First World War, the war whose Armistice Day we commemorate. My grandfather Allan Eby served in the Second World War as part of the Canadian forces that invaded Italy and freed the region from Nazi occupation. Similarly, my great uncles served in the military, one making it his career.
Each man had his own experiences. Each man could relate his own stories.
I remember fondly, when I grew old enough to understand, listening to my grandfather relate his experiences; in some ways, his greatest days and in others, his worst. In his own gentle way, he taught a brash young know-it-all with all the answers on the failure of war a thing or two about life and the need to defend freedom when called upon.
As I visited my grandparents’ gravesite the other day, I came upon the graves of several other soldiers, their tombstones clearly marked, their ranks smartly inscribed. And I stopped for a moment to thank them for their sacrifices.
It was only then that I noticed a monument atop a hill, something I had never seen before, that paid homage to the fallen. A soldier with bowed head. Very humbling.
To the men and women who sacrificed everything for my home, I thank you.
To the men and women who served bravely or waited nervously for family members to return home, I thank you.
To my friends who continue to serve for Canada or any other country, I thank you.
As long as I am alive, your story will not go unheard or unremembered.