The events last month on the Hill and in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu have forever changed my understanding of Remembrance Day. No longer can it be only an extremely important history lesson. It will from now on mean that we must ensure that we also remember and honour those who right now, every day are putting their lives at risk in order to protect us.
I will never again be able to look at those sentries, silent and still, at the cenotaph at Toronto City Hall every Nov. 11 in the same way.
I remember my visit to Kandahar in 2008. I remember how impressed I was with the men and women who had chosen a career in the military. Over one-third came from military families. They were focused on the mission. They were brilliant communicators. They understood the risks. They had lost colleagues.
I don’t think any of us then really comprehended the terrible toll that would follow so many home.
We have now lost more Canadian Forces members to PTSD/suicide than we lost in battle. We have to do better.
On Remembrance Day we will always remember those who have lost their lives, but we also need to also redouble our efforts to support those whose lives have forever changed. We need to put in place the supports and services that would be able to prevent these preventable deaths, as we “remember”, acknowledge and appreciate those brave women and men in uniform who every day put their lives at risk to serve and protect us right now.
Both Peter and I had fathers who fought in WWII. My dad served in Conn Smythe’s 30th Battery that landed at Juno Beach on D-Day plus five and then defended the bridge at Nijmegen in Holland. Peter’s father was a Canadian in the RAF. He was a Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain.
Churchill said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” He was one of “the few”.
Our dads never seemed to want to talk about the war. Remembrance Day was tough for them. Later in life they admitted there were many things they really didn’t want to remember. They appreciated the acknowledgement, but they had fought for peace. They were uncomfortable with any celebration of war.
After Peter’s father died we found a handwritten poem in his files. We cannot find a source for it anywhere. We think he may have written it. It articulates heartfelt feelings… that we share:
The drum is silent now,
And the wind sighs
Where once they walked;
And the stars, which watched the valour of their days,
At each new dusk
We remember. We are grateful for those who serve today.