Sunday, November 11, 2007

I will never forget

My personal connection with veterans of the wars in which Canadians participated is somewhat indirect. The closest relative was my step grandfather, Grandpa Charlie, who didn't talk to me directly about his experiences in the First World War, but whose lifelong struggle with emphysema testified dramatically to the lingering physical effects of his time in the trenches. He would also sing songs from the war and recite poems to me. The only thing he wouldn't do is talk about his comrades and what is was like to fight. I'll remember his songs and poems.

My family and friends have heard my stories about Remembrance Day in Europe when I visited the Canadian war cemetery in the Netherlands with other members of our high school concert band. Walking among the gravestones that day, before we recorded our memorial tribute for later airing in Canada, I read the ages of those young men who died - 18, 22, 19, 25, 21 - just a couple years older than I was at the time. That image, that memory, will remain with me forever.

Much later, as I studied history at the University of Waterloo, I went to Archives Canada in Ottawa to research shell shock in the first world war. I read first-hand accounts and medical reports, studied "expert" opinion about the psychology of war fatigue, and mapped out the services provided to those who returned from the front but unable to move beyond their own experiences. I'll always remember the personal impact of that research.

Today, I am watching the Remembrance Day memorial celebrations in Ottawa on CBC News World with my wife and so many other Canadians. And although I have grave misgivings about our role in Afghanistan, I will remember the sacrifices of the men and women who serve both our country and our values. It's the least I can do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don - I too on this day feel a gratitude to those young men. But it's coupled with a visceral anger that millions of young men would never find the love of their life nor enjoy the privilege of raising a family: that millions more mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters would have lost someone so dear; that the world would never know the genius and future contributions that were snuffed out on the battlefields of I and II and others. Anger at the politicians for failed diplomacy and a special anger at the commanders for failed and antiquated strategies that caused the wanton death of so many boys and young men. I truly thank the fallen for their sacrifice, I thank all who have served, and I thank those now in Afghanistan. But those who led, or would lead, our boys to wanton slaughter will go to hell.
Way to the West and
Way to the Right