Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. It is the day that we take time to remember those who have suffered and died in wartime. The day and ceremonies are dedicated to the soldiers who fought and died. It is dedicated to their bravery, commitment to country and selflessness. We watch dwindling numbers of WWII veterans stand and salute, march or, more likely these days, get pushed in a wheelchair and remember their comrades who didn’t come back or who have died since they came back. We see increasing numbers of younger veterans of peacekeeping missions and the combat mission in Afghanistan.
Every year I take the time to remember. I don’t always remember these particular characteristics. Often I remember the heartlessness of governments to throw away lives of young people (usually men). Often I remember the suffering of those soldiers who were sent to fight under false pretences. I wish I could say that this only happened in the past, but soldiers still get sent to fight in wars and not always for honourable causes.
Increasingly I think about the families. The families who stay behind while their loved one is sent to fight or defend the peace. I think about the civilians affected by war in countries that are under attack, regardless of whether it is a foreign state or their own government launching the attacks. I think about the partner and family members who experience their own trauma when their military family member returns home suffering from PTSD.
I remember my grandmother and her sisters who lived in London during the Blitz in WWII and how close they came to being killed – one bomb landed on the church at the end of the the street and destroyed half the houses on the street. Fortunately for me, my grandmother was in one that remained standing. I think about how challenging life must have been for them, with most of their husbands engaged in the war – my grandfather was at sea in the British Merchant Marine for the duration. I think about those left at home not knowing if they will ever see their loved one again.
I think about the kids. We see images in media today (if we care to look) of the kids affected by civil wars in places like Syria, the kids killed and orphaned through no fault of their own. I think about the kids who have to say good-bye to a parent who is heading off to places unknown to serve their country as requested by their government. I wonder about those photos of kids chasing the lines of troops heading to war and if they ever got to see their dads again.
I think about how incredibly hard it would be as a parent to be a soldier and head to a war zone, not certain if you will see your kids or loved ones again.
I also think about the kids who give me hope. The kids at my daughters’ school come from all over the world, some of them as refugees from wars, some of them who have lost immediate family members in wars. Some of those kids possibly coming from families that were on opposing sides of a conflict. In that school they are together. They are learning together and playing together and singing together. Together, these kids from all over the world are living in peace. They are learning from one another and are growing up together. They are the future. Together they will make the world a better place.
So this Remembrance Day I will remember the families affected by war and hold on to the hope offered by the children for our future.