Lest we forget

As you are reading this, it is time to think about Remembrance Days past. I have stood at the Cenotaph in Fort Frances when a bitterly cold west wind drove up from the river and we shivered in the cold wet snow as taps were played. I could feel the cold dampness that Canadians in trenches felt during the first world war. Both of my grandfathers were involved in that war.

I can also remember a bright Sunny warm November 11 at the Cenotaph, where we shed our overcoats and jackets and basked in the heat of the sun shining down on us. There was almost joy in the crowd as the service went on as we realized that the sun brought hope that Canadians would not suffer any more casualties to war.

One grandfather was in the medical corps evacuating wounded soldiers from the battlefield to hospitals. The other was wounded in action. Both survived and later went on to raise families and have great lives.

My father flew in the Second World War in a Lancaster Bomber as the navigator over the cold north Atlantic, hunting German submarines near the close of the war. He didn’t ever talk about his war days. His only souvenir was a leather hat fitted with a breathing hose. He never spoke of his part in the war or the loss of flying comrades flying the North Atlantic.

The world continues to be a hostile place. We continue to ask our soldiers to travel the world to create peace where conflicts exist. More than 40,000 Canadian troops served in Afghanistan and 165 troops died in conflict. That war continues to haunt many Canadians who have returned with brain injury and PTSD. Many of them have turned to suicide from the trauma they suffered. Families continue to suffer the long-lasting impacts of war.

War continues to hurt all Canadians. This year we did not stand in the cold at the Cenotaph. We watched on our computer screens as the service unfolded in our warm kitchens and living rooms, safe from the conflicts. We must remember. As I write this column, I am haunted by the last stanza of “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae:

“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 Field.”