I am often asked about my thoughts about Remembrance Day.
I don’t often share because everyone has a story, and many have gone through more than I could imagine.
This year I thought I would share a story: after returning to Canada from a tour, a unit had arranged for families to be united with their soldiers at the terminal on the Trenton air base.
There were emotional and tear-filled reunions going on everywhere, and a friend had arranged to meet his wife and 5-year-old daughter on the grass outside the building.
When his daughter sighted her dad, she broke away from Mom and ran across the grass to her Dad. As soon as this happened, the Dad started screaming and swearing at the little girl to stop and get back.
Certainly not the reunion anyone expected.
Both Dad & daughter were traumatized.
The Unit had spent months soldiering in a place full of mines & booby traps that are hard to place on pavement & sidewalks, but grass and foliage were to be feared.
The dad was reacting instinctively to saving his daughter instinctive reaction to seeing her Dad for the first time in over six months.
This I think about on Remembrance Day.
A few things come to mind:
I hate the term ‘they gave their lives.’ No one gave his or her life in combat. Someone took it. It surely was that person’s job, and it may have been a fair fight or a cowardly act that did it, but casualties on all sides of a fight are a result of purposeful actions.
I hate the loss of potential, and to that, I will speak more.
But first I would like to take a moment to describe a soldier’s life for those who have little contact with the military
I would like you to take a moment of time to allow me to paint you a picture.
Imagine in your mind’s eye all of the military/war movies and shows you have seen.
The gory ones, the slapstick ones, the poignant ones, the ironic and sarcastic ones, the ones of true brotherly love, the terrifying ones and of course the utterly inane … all of these depictions are based in truth & reality.
I am here to tell you that military service and the bonds of the combat arms are all of that & more, a life of tragedy and comedy that would drive a Shakespearean thespian mad.
I also know that there is nothing more honourable, empowering and unbelievable as serving in a fighting force that is well led, fit and strong … it is an amazing thing
But at its core, it is the love, the faith and the trust one person has in his closest friends, work-mates and his regiment.
For many years and as a young man Remembrance Day was a day to remember all of those who died serving our country and being honest it was dress uniforms, marching through the streets and drinking with new and old comrades in a legion somewhere.
During the last years, Remembrance Day has come to mean something different to me. I am no longer focused on those that have perished during battle.
But I can’t help but think of the thousands of soldiers who returned from war with life-altering, debilitating wounds, both seen and unseen.
I think of those who came home in a box or came home irreparably changed and their friends and families.
I think of returning soldiers are suffering from some mental health issue, from depression to full-blown PTSD.
Diseases just as deadly as any sniper.
In the US over 2,000 service personnel committed suicide since 2001, that is three times the number of all U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan.
In Canada, the Armed Forces are proud to state that the suicide rate among soldiers is lower than that of the broader population, but it is far too high for such a young population.
There are failed relationships, tangled finances and legal problems, all caused or exacerbated by the effects of war.
There are homeless veterans and young men & women in challenging domestic situations
Or who are trying desperately to fit into a civilian workplace where the biggest crisis is the wrong flavour of coffee.
I think the soldiers of peacekeeping missions because most Canadians think of peacekeeping as a sun-filled vacation standing between two enemies who have lain down arms.
These veterans faced war and combat and had the same scars as the new breed of vets, without the consensus that they had been in a fight.
And then I think of the innocents.
Those caught in a fight that isn’t of their making: women, elderly and children who become causalities and are often subject to the cruelty of the evilest acts perpetuated by the evilest bastards on earth.
Sometimes a bully can be appeased, but as a motto of one regiment says … evil to he who evil does, I surely know that sometimes a bully needs to be dealt with.
So, on Remembrance Day I am disappointed when I think of Canada’s disciplined fighting force and the lost opportunities to defeat bullies and what we could have done to prevent cruelty
I think of these soldiers not mentioned on memorials wall or honoured in any fashion, as they are most certainly casualties of war.
I am saddened to think of what those lost, ruined, and wasted lives might have had a chance to accomplish
I think of my friend and his daughter.