Remembrance Day 2009

Life has been so turbulent in the past few months, and particularly the past few weeks, that it’s been a huge struggle lately just to keep my feet on the ground. 

There are a few things I can count on.  Remembrance Day has long since been one of the rocks I can rely on to tie my kite down.  Most years I try to take notes and kinda keep track of highlights and particularly good moments or thoughts that are presented.  This year it all went out the window, and I stopped even trying to take notes and just kept trying to stay focused in the moment. 

Remembrance Day, for my friends who are not Canadian, is on November 11th, the day of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I.  In Canada it is a commemoration of those who served in World War I, World War II, the Korean conflict and in our Peacekeeping forces around the world since Lester B. Pearson created the idea of modern peacekeeping forces. 

Canada is no different than many other countries who have went through generations of peace.  Remembrance Day has waxed and waned over the years.  Just a few days ago, I heard some lady on the radio talking about how she would just keep right on talking through the two minutes of silence because war is bad.  Yes, yes it is.  And thank you to the soldiers and sailors and airmen who put their lives on the line so that you have the opportunity to talk through those two minutes of silence.  Tyranny knows no bounds, but it is in the acceptance of a differing opinion that we defeat tyranny - even if we must sometimes protect the other opinions with force. 

I definitely stand with those who remember.  I always have.  It’s a personal conviction and with great gratitude that I say I remember.  My grandfather fought WWII with the Soviet army - artillery I believe - until he was taken prisoner and placed in a Nazi POW camp.  My friends have served - some still serving - with the armed forces and I consider them amongst the finest, most honourable people I’ve ever known. 

It’s a tradition I’ve shared with my children for the past - wow - nine years.  From those first years of holding my daughter on my knee as she strained to see the brass band and holding an infant son trying to comfort him and keep him from crying through the minutes of silence to attending with two of the most marvelous and honourable young people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.  Today I brought a Tamagotchi for my son to play with while waiting for the ceremony to begin.  Once we were seated in the Jubilee Auditorium he reached it over to me and showed me he had collected 1914 points and whispered, “Dad, that’s the year World War I began.“  Just when the ceremony was about to begin I leaned over to him and whispered it was time to put it away and realized he was already stuffing it into his pocket. 

My daughter was translating some of the French for me, talking about facts and figures from the history of Canadian armed forces, and sat proudly and respectfully throughout the ceremony.  How good does that make a father feel? 

Particularly a father who feels like he’s being sent scurrying in every direction right now? 

I feel wonderful and proud of my children.  I feel very grateful that we can spend a day together in remembrance of the service of others.  I feel very pleased that we have some traditions together that are just accepted and a touchstone in our lives and no matter how scattered our world gets, we have something solid to hold fast. 

Our annual tradition is to shake the hand of someone in uniform.  Thank you to the kind gentleman who freely shook our hand this year, thank you for serving in our air force.  You, sir, are a man I admire wholeheartedly.

I’m thinking much of the family of Sapper Steven Marshall today, and for 132 other families who have lost loved ones serving in Afghanistan.  My heart goes out to you all.  I thank you through remembrance and by teaching my children remembrance and respect.  It is well and truly the least that I can do.

So tonight I feel that I have a little better perspective and a lot more resolve to deal with my piddling problems.  Tomorrow, I will not forget.