When I was a kid in elementary school sitting in our Remembrance Day ceremony, I used to wonder how I could remember something I had never experienced. I often felt I was stupid, as though there was something I should know that I didn’t, and I was too afraid to ask. How could I remember something I didn’t experience?
I spent time traveling – not to resorts, cruises and all-inclusives, but to actual places with museums, bunkers and monuments and was shocked at how far the Canadian Forces war efforts reached. Every museum I entered had tributes to our troops, and I discovered that while we didn’t have star-studded big-budget Hollywood movies to mark our triumphs, our soldiers were honoured in the history of other nations as well as our own – in the unglamorized bare truth.
As I got older and my Grandfather aged, I listened to his service stories with more interest than I ever had before. While these stories usually featured rum in some way, it was what lay beneath them that kept me captivated – pride. My Grandpa was very proud of his service, and it was a huge part of who he was right up until his death in 2007. He wanted us to know, and to share in that pride, and to make sure he was not forgotten.
And it’s because of him that I learned about Remembrance. I don’t “remember” war or those killed in battle, but I remember him and his pride in serving his country. I have learned that not all heroes come home in coffins, and while we must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives to ensure we were not speaking German today, we can also remember those who remain with us, those who survived and those whose job it is to keep us safe today.
I also learned that if we can’t remember a war or remember and honour someone who served then we need to imagine. Imagine facing fear, whatever fear means for each of us, continuing forward in spite of it and doing that day after day. And then, in that moment of silence as we imagine, when the pulse starts to race and the stomach starts to swirl with sickness, that’s the moment to say, “Thank you”.