In the cold echoes of the wind, the trumpets blare and the men in uniform march one…by…one. Down the street, past the monuments, in view of thousands wearing the little red flowers so close to their hearts.
Perhaps it is because the last three months in school have been consumed with war…how it happened, how it continues to happen, who it involved, who was victorious, and who was dessimated. Or maybe it’s because I had a friend who recently returned from there, who had friends there, as the war – a different war – rages on. It doesn’t matter, but today remembrance seems to mean more than it ever has.
It is not just about our freedom or the price that was paid, in bodies and blood and debt and uncertainty, but about the devastating confusion that came when an expected four month war stretched into four years; how our nationality was deeply exposed when Canada, for the first time, entered a war (WWII) on our own. It’s so easy to wave a Canadian flag, a British flag, and American flag, and boast thanksgiving to those who lost their lives for our freedom… and our unity. It’s so easy to sit in front of the TV or read the headlines and believe that war was then, and freedom is now.
But what do we do with that freedom? We gripe about the economy and gas prices; job shortages and the weather; we struggle with the Canadian government and the situation in the United States. We complain about tuition and having our parents’ still boldly lay claim to our lives. I think with freedom comes our responsibility to the price that has been, and continues to be, paid to keep us secure, radiant, proud Canadians. We justify our spending or actions or beliefs on a simple justification: “because we can”. Yet I wonder, what if the Unknown Soldier decided he couldn’t? What if the nurse laid down her bandages and said she would no longer serve? What if Fisher had not manufactured the Dreadnought? What if conscription never took place or time stood still on industrialization or the atomic bomb was never created? What if the other side won?
What if the World Trade Center had never been attacked? Where would we be? Who would we be? Why does it matter?
It’s frighteningly cold today, as if the wind has rushed in to hold our hearts cold to imagine what it was like when the opposing sides called a truce, meeting in No Man’s Land, for one day – Christmas Day – and decided to lay down the weapons, to Live and Let Live, if only for one day.
I think it is time that we, Canadians, British, North Americans, whoever, are exposed to simply remember. Today is not only a time to remember who has served, but to center ourselves, again, on what is really important. My sister often talks about how God calls us to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. With that, what are we doing with this freedom we’ve been given? What are we doing with this life? Would hundreds of thousands upon thousands of fallen soldiers believe it was all worth it?
Let’s not forget the veterans and members of the past, but let us also continue to remember those with the Canadian flag and cause that are fighting and peacekeeping now. It is, literally, the least we can do.
“It’s only in the dark and cold of night that we can see the stars…and I pray that those stars will lead them, too, all the way home.”
November 11, 1918 – November 11, 2008 : 90 years since the armistice ending WWI was signed.
I choose to remember.