Canadian troops going "over the top" during training near St. Pol, France. October 1916.
Photograph by Lt. Ivor Castle (Canadian Army)
This morning I started my day discussing the two world wars with my 12 year old daughter, and she was eager to answer questions and ask them as well. That got the ball rolling. I'm proud of her for listening and having the talk with me instead of tuning me out for some dumb Facebook game. I'm proud of her for caring enough to actually recite back some of the things I said to her. Hearing my 12 year daughter recite the phrase;
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent. The great war was over.
That almost brought tears to my eyes. It also opened them.
For years I have been working with cadets, and each year we participated in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Windsor. There's an incredibly strong military presence here, and the Windsor Cenotaph is always jammed with military units, cadet corps from all over the place, veteran's organizations, dignitaries, and finally spectators. It's truly a sight to see. So many people that you would be lucky to even glimpse the service you are attending. We even get representation from the American veteran associations - being a border city our legions work very closely with the Veterans of Foreign Wars branches, as well as others. I've always moved by the enormity of Windsor's turnout. Even with the veteran's ranks getting thinner each year, there seems to be others filling them back in again.
I've noticed that lately those ranks are being filled in with youth.
Over the years I have made several attempts to do my part with the process of remembering. I have done school presentations complete with soundtracks and slideshows, I have argued with my publishers to include more about Remembrance Day in our papers (when I was working). I have involved my children and taught them about the day and what it means, and more. Sometimes these attempts at convincing others to care works out in a positive way, other times it falls flat. One school presentation I did (with me in full uniform), met with such animosity that the teachers themselves were at the back of the gym talking it up, never mind the one hundred or so children I was presenting to. It was terrible. Nobody seemed to care about the message.
But that kind of reaction cannot let one feel discouraged about teaching others what this day is about. This day is about the sacrifices people made willingly and without remorse. There's no way that we should ever forget that. And it is the duty of anyone who cares about it to pass along the passion to those who may not care or even know why we do this.
Today in Windsor all government lands that contain flags have lowered them to half mast. I've already heard people asking why. This annoys me. You shouldn't need to ask today. Those that do ask need to be taught to care. Those who know already should pause in front of them and lower their heads in honour of those who died. Not just for two minutes at 11am, but all day.
Today has another special meaning. For the first time in several years our forces are home from Afghanistan. 158 died there, and many more have war wounds that will never heal. These wounds include PTSB, which has already claimed returning soldiers who decided to take their own lives rather than live with the trauma they witnessed. So the dying and suffering continues.
So today, stop and teach someone. Stop and give a lesson to someone, whether or not they care, stop and explain the importance of Remembrance Day. Wear your poppy and know why you're doing it. Not just because it's a major source of revenue for the legions, but because it makes you remember. Hell, for that matter buy a pocket full of poppies and pin them on people who don't have one. Where it with pride over your heart.