Today, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians pause and observe two minutes of silence to pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in military service. We remember the fallen from the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, the Afghanistan conflict and in other peacekeeping missions around the world.
My grandfather was enlisted in the RCAF during World War II. Thankfully, for us, (he always regretted it) he never saw any battle time, but still he was never comfortable talking about the war. He would only say he made a lot of good friends and lost even more. End of conversation.
After my grandfather died, my dad was given a small collection of photos taken at the beginning of the war. In the faded photographs, my grandfather looks young and handsome and happy in his uniform. I think it’s because he looks so happy that I find the photos so sad. The smiling uniformed young man, who had only just married my grandmother, was going to see the world change. His friends were going to go overseas and he would be left behind. Many of them, possibly even some of the men in the photos, were going to die. It seems too terrible to even consider. I can’t even pretend to understand what it must have been like. I can count the people I’ve lost to tragedy on one finger. I’ve lived a privileged life and regardless of my politics or feelings about war in general, I know I have my grandfather and the men and women of his generation who sacrificed their lives to thank for many of the freedoms I enjoy.
And so, today I am going to think of my grandfather and his lost friends and of all the others from different wars and different times and I’m going to try to thank them by bringing them back to life in my thoughts. And not just for 2 minutes either. I think I can manage a little more time than that.
A complete listing of Remembrance Day ceremonies is available on the Veterans Affairs Canada website.