On Remembrance Day and Veteran’s Day it is important for us all to reflect on the sacrifice and devotion to duty shown by so many of our brave men and women all over the world. But, what does the observation of past and present wars mean to you?
November 11th is not about poppies, wreaths or cenotaphs. Those are only symbols to remind us of our brave military men and women. What November 11 is really about is courage and raw, unshakeable allegiance to a country. Veterans of all wars offered something that most of us have never and will never have to consider as an option. They offered their lives. They offered their countries the right to use them as corporeal weapons of war. When they made that offer to their Governments, they knew full well that they might never return from whatever theatre of war they would ultimately enter. They knew the enemy forces they would encounter would show them no mercy and that they too might have to make the definitive, irrevocable decision to end another person’s life.
Because it is neither natural or normal for human beings to deliberately end the lives of other human beings, our Veterans made another sacrifice. They put their integrity, their morals, and their spirituality on the line along with their bodies. They chose to overlook their natural predisposition to saving the lives of others in favour of protecting their fellow countryman from enemy forces. As much as killing did not come easily to them, they did it for the love of their homeland and the people back home they so desperately wanted to protect. Most importantly, they did these incredible things while asking nothing in return.
Members of all branches of the military were (and still are) asked to fight in unbelievably unpleasant and dangerous conditions, thousands of miles from their homes and families. They ate bad food and were paid very little for doing the most dangerous and important jobs on earth. And yet they fought selflessly until the war was over. Each time a war began, our Veterans finished it. Some came home...some did not. Some came back unharmed...others came back broken, torn, shell-shocked, and emotionally distressed. All had offered up the ultimate price...their personal right to life.
“Lest We Forget” has two meanings for me. Firstly, we the non-Veterans of the world must never forget the sacrifices our Veterans made for us. Secondly, we must all accept that our veterans will never forget what they were forced to do in service of their country. Veterans never forget the places they fought, the weapons they fired, or the enemy soldiers they killed and wounded. How could they? No human being could possibly forget the horrors of combat. Our Veterans gave all they had physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.
Wars are started by politicians but they are fought by fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and family members. We must always remember that our fighting men and women must be honoured for their service and that honour must never be tarnished by politics or protest. Veterans are heroes who do their duty at their own behest and for the most excellent of reasons. They are the best part of war and the best part of our humanity.
My Dad fought in World War II and still carries a piece of German Shrapnel in his back to this very day. He is 87 years old now and he has never forgotten his service to his country. In fact he speaks of the war years with more clarity than perhaps anything else in his life. Unlike my father, I have never had to offer my life for virtually anything. Because my Dad and millions of other Veterans fought for my freedom I have lived a very comfortable and secure life. At age 59, I find myself wondering what I would do if I was in their position and what my life would have been like if I was forced to experience what my Dad experienced. I offer my heartfelt gratitude to my Dad and to every other man and woman who ever risked his or her life for their country. They represent the best of us.
Are you willing to risk your life?
LEST WE FORGET