Remembrance Day 2011

Remembrance Day is always special for me.

Quite often I’ve worked at a place where it’s just a day off.  If it’s in the middle of the week, they’ll swap days around so you can get an extra three day weekend or something.  It is a day that means much more to me and I’ve been blessed to work at companies that understand that.

I made certain that I’d be able to take my kids to commemorate Remembrance Day together every year.  When my daughter was very young, we went down to the Jubilee.  Her eyes went wide as the HCMS Tecumseh Naval Reserve Band played before the ceremony.  I have a strong memory of her enjoying the moment, then snuggling up to me as the speeches wore on.  I remember feeling mortified when my newborn son cried during the two minutes of silence.  In my mind it was a piercing shriek the entire time.  In reality, a very kind person came up to me after the ceremony and thanked me for bringing my kids along.

We have always held to our tradition of finding a person in uniform and shaking his or her hand to say thank you.  It seems like a little thing, but it strikes me as an important thing.  Two incidents are coming to mind that I can’t shake without telling.  The first was when we shook the hands of a younger fellow and as I explained our tradition he promptly pulled us over to a giant of a man, shriveled with age, and the younger gentleman stated point blank that we needed to shake the hand of the older veteran.  I don’t know why him in particular, I simply felt blessed that our gesture was appreciated and we certainly shook the hand of a great man that day.

The other moment was just before the Jubilee was renovated.  I remember my kids were shy that year.  I scanned the crowd after the ceremony and I approached a man in uniform turned away from me.  I touched his arm and as he turned I believe he filled in the definition of “regimental” for me.  He was taller than I was and looked gruff and serious.  At that moment I wondered if I had chosen the wrong man and should just leave him be, but I pushed on instead.  I told him our family tradition was to shake the hand of someone in uniform and he turned formally and engulfed my daughter’s tiny hand.  He held his hand out to my son, who ducked behind me for cover, then turned to me.  He shook my hand warmly, I choked out a thank you, he straightened and said, “You’re welcome,” and both rigidly and gracefully turned as if to say, “Well that’s that then.“  We would see him again when the ceremony was held at the Round Up Centre where he and I smiled at each other, but I didn’t shake his hand that year.

I wonder if he’s still alive.  I wonder what his recollection is of that day.  I hope he felt my hand was offered with the greatest of respect.

The past couple of years we’ve attended the ceremony at the Museum of the Regiments.  It seems to me the weather’s been cold but not frigid, this year the weather promises to be rather nice.  I long to return to my memories at the Jubilee, but I’m torn - I would like to save the seat for a family with young children or the elderly veterans who deserve to commemorate in comfort, yet those are the people I most wish to see as well.  Of course, I haven’t yet attended the ceremony at Central Memorial Park since the renovations there, and I hear that the Calgary Highlanders have done a great job with the service they put on there.

I have no idea which location I’ll commemorate right now.  I will guarantee that I will be at one of them with my children beside me and I will think of family and friends serving in the armed forces present or past.

For an excellent list of ceremonies in 2011, please visit Mr. YYC’s list of events and absolutely spend a moment of your day looking at Some Special Places of Remembrance in Calgary.

Most importantly, attend a ceremony and give your respects to our veterans.