Remembering in 2022

I took time today to remember those Canadians who fought and died for democracy. Two minutes of silence at 11 a.m.isn’t much, but it is gesture with huge symbolic meaning. That sadly seems less fashionable as the years go by.

Earlier this week I was walking on the campus of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. I spent some time looking at their war memorial, a Roman style arch inscribed with the names of those who served and died for Canada. I’ve been neglecting this blog recently (I do blame the new phone) and haven’t been taking many photos. I didn’t take any of the arch itself, I did, for some reason, snap a picture of the brass plaque that listed some of the names. The Latin inscription at the tope trasnaltes as “For God and Country.”

The memorial has been added to since it was first unveiled in 1923. Back then people thought the Great War was the War to End All Wars. All too soon they learned that it wasn’t. Many more names have been added to the memorial in the ensuing years.

Today in the traditional silence I remembered my maternal grandfather, a gentle man. I was too young to ask questions about the First World War – he died when I was just 11. A war injury of sorts, though it wouldn’t have been seen as such.

My grandfather died of emphysema, a lung condition caused by his years of heavy smoking. He wasn’t a smoker before the war, but they handed out cigarettes for free to troops in the trenches. He came home addicted. He quit when the health effects became known, but by then it was too late; the damage had been done.

I also remembered my great-uncle Forrest, a man I never met that I heard about from my father – who also never met him. Forrest was one of those who went overseas and never returned. He was wounded in 1916, and again in 1917, before being fatally wounded in 1918.

Another great-uncle, Russell, was one of those who did return, having served in combat for $15 a month, only to die of diptheria in 1921. Not an atypical story for the times.

I was also thinking of my son, who has had little to no exposure to war stories except in films. I pray it stays that way. And my grandson.

For all I know he may choose a military career. If so, I hope it is a choice made in peacetime and not becasue the winds of war are blowing across the country and the world.

Living in Ottawa, the national Remembrance Day ceremony is very much to the forefront each November 11. It has been years since I attended in person, but it is streamed online, as well as broadcast on television and radio. It is a solemn and moving time.

Living here also means the ceremony comes to me. About 90 seconds after the fighter jet flypast at the ceremony downtown the jets roar over my suburban residence. A reminder that you can’t confine war to just one area, no matter how hard you try.

The generation that fought the First World War is gone. There are very few old soldiers left from World War Two, which ended 77 years ago. It won’t be long until they too are only a memory.

More recent conflicts have not involved the nationwide effort seen in those two, so they aren’t much in the forefront of the Canadian psyche. That is a blessing.

Even as the memories fade though, it remains important to set aside the time each year to remember war and pray for peace. When I think about it, given teh state of our world, it might be a good thing if we do that daily.

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