Just a thought… It is surmounting difficulties that makes heroes. [Louis Pasteur]
Today, with humility and gratitude, I will add a few words to the sentiments of Canadians who, 101 years after armistice was declared at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in what was so optimistically called “the war to end all wars,” salute and honour the men and women who have given their precious lives to help protect and serve our glorious and too-often complacent home and native land.
This year, I have a little more perspective than even a visit to Vimy in France gave us. Since going into recovery this past summer and regularly attending 12-step meetings, I’ve had glimpses into the darkness behind the crisp uniforms and orchestrated pageantry.
I’ve heard stories and witnessed the deep emotional and mental (as well as physical) pain experienced by our enlisted ranks; I’ve learned of addiction and other ways in which people try to cope once they’ve seen the worst that humans can do to each other. I’ve heard of struggles as they try to assimilate back into a peaceful, mostly oblivious Canadian society.
Most of us are fortunate; we can’t imagine the pain and suffering. As a parent, I know what it’s like to lose a child, but not to bear the heavy yoke of worry every moment of every day about that child’s safety while they’re far from home. An entire extended family of a person serving our country is right there with him or her, make no mistake.
Many were the days and nights that my mother worried for my father’s safety as he flew long trips to deliver aid or disaster relief in peacetime, learned the tricky and dangerous dance of mid-air refueling for massive jets, and carried out jobs that I’ve never asked him about, all performed as a Canadian serviceman who gratefully did whatever was asked of him.
Today we salute those who went off to war – or peace – and never returned. But we also recognize the sacrifices of our service members and their entire families, as they awaited a return, or word that their loved one wasn’t coming back alive or whole, in mind or body.
War and unrest are happening around the world at this very moment. In this glorious, albeit sometimes politically turbulent country in which we live, this blessedly peaceful Canada, we pause to remember those who keep it that way. Their sacrifices. Their pain – seen and unseen. Their love of that beautiful red and white flag stitched on their sleeve, worn as proudly as we wear our love for our country, for all to see.
And we are grateful – today and always.