Just a thought… The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. [Edmund Burke]
I’m going to pause in the midst of this week, this frenetic, joyous, travel-filled week, to look at a picture much bigger than the ones I’ve shared with you over the past few days.
Tomorrow I’ll be back to bringing you special moments of meeting with people and sharing stories of love and friendship, of common bonds and new connections.
Today my thoughts are with those who lost loved ones and with those who gave so much of their lives on this date in 1944. There can be no way to add to the comprehensive and indelible remembrances of these hours, these days, on a beach in France, where bravery, they said, wasn’t the courage of getting off the boat first, but being the second line to step off after seeing what had happened to your brothers in arms who’d been shot down before your eyes.
I’m humbled and in awe of the sacrifices that we mark today and am proud to share with you something I wrote on the 60th anniversary of this day. I’ll be back here to wrap up the week tomorrow.
We will never forget.
This is the first year of my life that I think I’ve had a true appreciation, or have begun to understand the kind of sacrifices that were made by Canadians during times of both war and peace around the world in a military capacity. It was because of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, and the fact that there were so many really quality television productions centering on the day itself. Although it was one day of horrors in one war, it gave me a perspective I’m ashamed to admit I never had. Imagine. Me, coming from a military family (father and sister, plus two uncles and a brother-in-law all in the armed forces) and everything. Now, I probably spent more time at the cenotaph in Ottawa than most kids did, but really, the whole experience of war, or marching off to the possibility of losing a limb, a mind, a life or one’s innocence never hit home.
It’s dangerous to generalize, but here goes: generally speaking, few of us under the age of 50 have the knowledge that we should have about Canadians’ sacrifices. There are two generations of Canadians who have never seen their fathers, uncles, husbands, brothers – and yes, their female counterparts – marching off to war. They’ve never felt the personal loss (with the exception, of course, of our countrymen and women who have died as peacekeepers) and therefore have little connection to the tremendous hardships they endured in the defense of their nation. Were it not for the graphic and horrific opening half hour of Saving Private Ryan, it’s very safe to assume that most of us would have even less concept of just what kind of hell war really is.
I was amazed to learn this year that Canadians were not drafted in World Wars I and II until the final year of each war, and for the most part, by the time those conscriptions were processed, the wars had ended. They simply signed up and left because it was the right thing to do. For King and Country, no doubt. Many never returned: over 115,000 Canadians lost their lives in the two World Wars and Korea, robbing a young country of so much promise. But in its place, a different kind of promise was made that we will never forget. For this reason I am opposed to November 11 being turned into a holiday. If not for school assemblies and the efforts made by our schools to give at least an inkling of understanding to their students about the significance of the day, there’s little doubt no heed would be paid to the day at all.
We owe it to the men and women of our grandparents’ and parents’ generations to remember why they took part in wars, why so many gave so much, not for glory, not for medals, but for Canada. For peace. For the sake of doing the right thing and the right thing for us now is to remember them, to learn about their lives, their deaths, their wars, their losses and their triumphs and to be grateful. Ever grateful.