Lest we forget

  • November 11, 2006

Remembrance Day matters to me.  The kids were talking about it all week with me, I know I’ve planted the seed that will make it matter to them, as well. 

The kids and I went down to the ceremony at the Jubilee again this year.  It’s wonderful to get down there at 9:30 and worry about whether we’d find a seat at all.  We did, on the terrace, house right.  It was a good day again. 

There are a number of traditions we follow on Remembrance Day in our home.  We often stop for coffee and Timbits just before we go to the celebration.  That started when I picked up the kids at 9:00 and we had a bit of time to spare waiting in line at the Jube.  (No longer, I’m ecstatic to report.  Be there early, it’s a great to see so many people there.)

We are always there early in order to watch the HMCS Tecumseh Naval Reserve Band play prior to the ceremonies.  When I first separated and I booked Remembrance Day as a special, reserved day to bring my children to the Jubilee, I worried my daughter was too young to appreciate it.  I stubbornly refused to accept anything less than bringing her along and she was enchanted by the band at once.  I’m very proud that she’s shown an appreciation for Jazz and Big Band and Swing her entire life.  The band fits exceptionally well that the day, and our shared enjoyment makes it even more precious of a day to me.  Well done, Lt(N) Brian Thorlacius and band - you’ve helped to create a bond that cannot be broken.

The ceremony is oh-so-hard for a young child, I know it, how I know it.  It’s with all my grace and gratitude that I thank the veterins, the war-brides, the Silver Cross mothers and my fellow observers for being accepting of the fussing, fidgiting, crying children in attendance.  For two years, my kids have been exceptional, I’d like to thank them as well.  And thanks to the others who bring their children and pass their own traditions along.

This year is particularly relevant in that the program had a fold, and on that was listed Canada’s Honour Roll for Afghanistan from January through October 2006.  Thirty-four members of our armed forces are listed there who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  We will remember them.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier gave what I considered to be a significant address this morning.  Too often the speeches - especially speeches from politicians on holidays - become hollow or overly earnest or ringing of displaced passion.  I felt he spoke honestly and meaningfully as to Calgarians and our role in the events of our world.  He singled out the three Calgarians whom have died in Afghanistan trying to improve the world as best as they knew how.  He plainly addressed that we, as Calgarians, stand in support of our own.

Major Reg Newbury of the Salvation Army said the prayer today.  Significant to me was that he addressed the loss and the senseless violence that’s brought to us through television nightly, and he prayed not only for those who have been lost, but also for those who have returned.  They have sought peace where peace was not possible.  I shared his prayer in my heart as well.

My five year old son drifted a bit at this point.  He asked that I give him a pen and set about scribbling on the program.  I obliged, thinking it would at least keep him occupied.  When I looked over, he was marking check marks beside the names.  A whispered exchange between us, and he mentioned that he only put the check marks beside the very important people.  Perhaps he didn’t understand fully, perhaps he understands better than we can imagine.  Each and every name he checked off are on the Honour Role and are listed below.

We will remember them.

   In Flanders fields the poppies blow
   Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
   Scarce heard amid the guns below.

   We are the Dead. Short days ago
   We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
   In Flanders Fields.

   Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
   We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
   In Flanders Fields.

        - John McCrae

 The last tradition worth noting is that I try to shake the hand of someone in a uniform each and every year with the kids.  I have no idea who it will be, I just find someone at random and introduce myself.  I know the soldier we met today is most unlikely to ever find this part of the internet, but thank you.  Shaking your hand is a symbolic gesture to all of our armed forces.  I hope you understand that.

 I’m going to make some personal remarks here to present and past members of the Armed Forces I know personally.

Les:  My kids have been asking about Aaron and Abrina’s dad for a week.  They don’t quite remember you, but they haven’t forgotten you and your family either.  Cheers, mate, get in touch if you can.  You are one of my heros, you know.

Elliot:  A cheers to you as well, dear friend.  May the starlight guide you forever.  I think of you and Lori often, the two of you helped me grow up into being an actual man instead of getting lost in my boyishness forever, you know.  I know there’s been a lot happened between those days and now, we should catch up too.  I hear Lori was back in Calgary.  I hope you’ve both done well for yourselves.

John:  Thanks for the help.  I haven’t dug out yet, but I’m starting to get some traction.

The pilot who flow with the Snowbirds in the mid-70’s:  I’ve long forgotten your name, but did you know I still remember you?  You gave me my interest in all things aeronautic.  Thanks, I’ve seemed to have passed some of that on as well.

Cam:  You count on this one too.  I’ll call you next week.  Breakfast on me?

Dziadek:  I love you.

Let’s call this my fold.  These are also my personal heros:

Cpl. Paul Davis
Master Cpl. Timothy Wilson
Pte. Robert Costall
Cpl. Matthew Dinning
Bombardier Myles Mansell
Lieut. William Turner
Cpl. Randy Payne
Cap. Nichola Goddard
Cpl. Anthony Boneca
Cpl. Francisco Gomez
Cpl. Jason Warren
Cpl. Christopher Reid
Sgt. Vaughan Ingram
Cpl. Bryce Keeler
Pte. Kevin Dallaire
Master Cpl. Raymond Arndt
Master Cpl. Jeffrey Walsh
Cpl. Andrew Eykelenboom
Cpl. David Braun
Sgt. Shane Stachnik
Warrent Officer Frank Robert Mellish
Pte. William Cushley
Warrent Officer Richard Francis Nolan
Pte. Mark Graham
Cpl. Glen Arnold
Cpl. Shane Keating
Cpl. Keith Morley
Pte. David Byers
Pte. Josh Klukie
Sgt. Craig Gilliam
Cpl. Robert Mitchell
Tpr. Mark Wilson
Sgt. Darcy Tedford
Pte. Blake Williamson

The rest of our men and woman serving past, present or future.

Peace, my friends.