Remembrance Day 2011
by Ted Thompson
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:6-8
Remembrance Day comes poetically at the right time of year. It is usually grey and raining. There is not a leaf on the tree. After the warmer months the temperatures have fallen and the dampness has become miserable.
Yet you put on your warm coat and poppy and head on down to the War Memorial, after all, given the veterans sacrifice you can suffer through this. Soon you hear the familiar tunes being piped down the street, “Scotland the Brave”, “Wings”, “Rowan Tree” with “Barren Rocks” thrown in just to help you to reach for your first tissue. You can see the top of the flags first before the marchers come into view. The marchers are a familiar group perhaps you are related to some of them. The grey to snow white hair, the walkers and wheel chairs, the people walking arm and arm for support is much as it ever was. The parade comes off the road and takes its position around the cenotaph. You have seen this before.
Throughout the service you stand and witness familiar hymns, prayers and mini sermons. The politicians all teeth, with their hair clenched, use the familiar platitudes; “sacrifice, loyalty, steadfast”, and proclaim everyone “hero’s”. The bugler will blow “Taps” and the piper will play “Flowers of the Forest” or perhaps “Amazing Grace”. You will sing “Oh Canada”, “God save the Queen” and perhaps the old chestnut “The Maple Leaf Forever”.
When the parade moves out the pipes come alive again as if they had been asleep for a long time. The flags are hoisted into their holsters and carefully unfurled. The marchers once again assume their place and more or less in time march off to grow one more year older, or to die before next Remembrance Day.
But as you turn away to go home, I would ask you to reflect on a few things. Most of us have some minute understanding of the horrors of war. If you have enough years behind you, you have seen people in great pain and watched them die. You have knowledge (however peripheral) of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. You have enough understanding of history to know the horrible follies different battles were.
You know in hind site, the waste always being prepared to fight the last war, and the obscenity that is the phrase “acceptable losses”. I ask you now did you truly notice that the average age of a veteran is actually going down? Oh yes, among the walkers and wheelchairs the faces are growing younger. From Bosnia to the Gulf war from “Keeping the peace” where there was none, to Afghanistan where war is waged by surprise and terrific violence, we are creating veterans. Is this not a horror to you?
My Fathers generation fought in the Second World War, while some of my uncles fought there, and in Korea. My generation did not have to fight in a war. When I was twenty there were no wars that Canada was involved in so no patriotic songs, no flag waving, no drumming up fervor, no tearful good byes, no coming home in a flag covered box.
I saw my Uncle (94 years old) take the salute at the last Remembrance Day service with his medals shined and his dark blue suit carefully pressed. At that time I remember thinking “he got a chest full of medals so that I would have none”. I have never lost sight of that since. However I could not pass that off to my children. My children’s generation is fighting a war in Afghanistan that with all its advantages, my generation could not avoid. I am ashamed.
If we are “Gods People” and “God is Love” I pray we will make mistakes by trusting people rather than making the mistake of going to war with them because of what they might do. This attitude will enter more areas of your life than you might think. Consider the next time you see a person broken down on the highway, will you stop to assist or will you take the wary paranoid view and drive by afraid, “just in case”? Will you assist some one who seems disturbed, or will you pass by certain they are crazy and you may be putting yourself in danger? Is feeding the poor a nice phrase and a pleasant thought, or something you are working towards?
I must say honestly for myself I will be tested should these questions need answering in my own life. It is at this moment I realize why veterans are getting younger, and why sadly, Remembrance Day ceremonies will continue long past my demise. ♥
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4