In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Remembrance 2007

"We stand on guard for thee"

“We stand on guard for thee”

Remembrance Day was a good day this year. The weather was only a few degrees above freezing, but the sun was warm and it made the day bright and cheery. Somehow Remembrance Day just feels right when it’s overcast and lightly drizzling. I don’t wish for this kind of weather though, because the veterans who attend the ceremony have done enough.

I went downtown with Kendra and her sister for the ceremony. It was jammed. The CBC reported an estimated attendance of 30,000 people. We managed to find a place to park ourselves within sight of the cenotaph. Given the crowd we found, this seemed a minor miracle. It was somewhat tempered by our being around the back. We could see nothing of the ceremony itself. Still, we were there. Television would’ve provided a better view, but I much prefer to go and be there to show my gratitude to the veterans.

I noticed a number of photocopied pages stuck to utility posts downtown. They suggested the reader remember aspects of various conflicts from the past. Remember the Holocaust. Remember mustard gas. Remember the blitzkrieg. But then I noticed another that revealed the true intent of the people who posted them: War hero is an oxymoron. I value the freedom we have to express ourselves, but two things bothered me. First, this was an inappropriate venue for some of the posted pages. Second, the very freedom these people enjoy is protected by the people they denigrate.

I firmly believe peace should be our ultimate goal. Negotiation and other diplomatic means should be vigorously pursued. At the same time, I firmly believe a person who believes there is never any justification for armed conflict is just as big a fool as a person who believes armed conflict is always justified. It’s never pleasant, but it is sometimes necessary.

After the ceremony, many of the attendees patiently awaited their turn to place the poppy they’ve worn for the past few months on the tomb of the unknown soldier. Thousands of people leave their poppies behind covering the stone tomb in red. When Kendra and I made our way to the tomb I took a few photos, including the one below.

In addition to the poppies and a wreath, someone left behind an epaulette from the uniform of a member of the Canadian Forces. The letters indicate the uniform was from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment. The hand-written message says, “One day we will laugh and joke together again. Till then I will live.”

What else can one possibly say, except to express profound gratitude, and promise to never forget.

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1 Comment

  1. Kat

    Very moving tribute, Rick. The part about the epaulette brought tears to my eyes.

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