I wanted to take a moment to respond to Karl’s editorial of last week. I think there is something really interesting in there that is worth discussing. I thought about his stance and not understanding Remembrance Day and part of the thought it is pretty wonderful that we are living in a time when so many people are in the same position. Where war has not directly impacted them. I would think that in a way those that fell in the world wars would probably feel pretty proud of that, that what they sacrificed has not gone in vain.
I was not directly impacted by the wars, and there haven’t been wars of that size in my lifetime. There was a time when I was going through the ceremonies and everything felt abstract, those that fell, the terrors they faced. It was distanced from me. There were others in my class that were more directly impacted, they heard the stories growing up, or they saw the results in their grandparents.
A majority of the war remains abstract for me. But when I was in grade eleven I took a class trip to Normandy where I stood on the beaches and saw the stakes from where the men were jumping from the boats and into the water. I saw the graveyards with rows and rows of crosses. I saw the names, the ages of those fallen and I wondered what it must have been like for them. To lose life so young, to never know the peace that they were fighting for.
The moment that brought it to reality for me was when I stood in the Canadian War Cemetary and I spoke with the Veterans, the men and women that survived, whose friends were buried here. I listened to their voices, I saw pride in their eyes, and sorrow. They seemed happy to see school kids there. But what I remember most was the feeling of realization that this person standing before me saw the battle. They saw what I have only seen in documentaries. They lived through all of that. Not someone related to them. Not a parent or grandparent. But this person.
I remember standing on Vimy Ridge, walking through the tunnels and trenches, seeing the scars of war still evident in the landscape.
I remember seeing the veterans get off the bus and tears well in their eyes. I wondered what they were remembering? It isn’t an abstract thought for them. It was their reality, and it was not that long ago.
I think it is important to remember what they went through because we learn from our past and maybe that will stop us from repeating it. But, I also think it is a tribute to those who fought that some of us no longer understand the direct impact of war.