On November 11, Roy and I will again be present for the Remembrance Day ceremonies here in our small village. As a newly elected councillor in the rural municipality in which we live, Roy will likely be expected to take part in the program by making a speech and laying a wreath on behalf of the county.
In past years, we simply parked our car near the cenotaph located at the south end of Main Street and joined the others gathered to pay their respects. The weather is normally somewhere between cold and damn cold. There is usually a brisk wind that forces collars up and hands shoved deeper into the pockets of winter jackets. Noses and cheeks turn red, but we all survive. It is, after all, such a tiny bit of inconvenience or discomfort. There are no IEDs or foxholes or shell casings here.
Each year, a tour bus of military personnel and some family members come from Edmonton Garrison to take part in our program. Young boys and girls from the local air cadet squadron, an RCMP member, a piper, and political dignitaries join them in a march from the village office to the cenotaph.
Already in place at the cenotaph are four members of the army and air force, each in position at the corners of the concrete pad. During the march, wreath laying, and moments of silence, they stand motionless?one foot slightly in front of the other, and white-gloved hands steadying the business end of a rifle which is resting on the toe of their boot. Their heads are bowed. The dress uniform and either beret or wedge cap seem woefully inadequate for the weather. Yet they hold their positions, and I am awed.
For the comfort of all concerned, the crowd moves to the community hall, where the remainder of the program takes place. Here, the rest of the wreaths are laid by representatives of various clubs, organizations, and businesses. Each person laying a wreath is accompanied by a young air cadet in the short walk from the back of the room to the makeshift memorial in the centre of the hall. Dignitaries bring greetings; a member of the clergy offers a benediction. Finally, all those present view some displays and enjoy a hot meal and time of fellowship.
And through all this, from the time I leave home until the time I return, I feel tears stinging my eyes and threatening to roll down my cheeks, betraying my emotions. I think about the people, mothers especially, who have lost someone in combat. I thank the Lord that neither of my kids felt driven to join the military. In the next breath, I say thank you to those people who do make that choice. Their sacrifice is without measure.
And finally, I’m glad that each year across Canada, there seem to be more Remembrance Day activities, involvement, and tributes to help us do the very least we can do: Remember. Just another reason to tear up, from where I sit.