Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Remembrance Day

Do you have your poppy yet? I do. In a strange twist, I've dropped my "ignore every holiday" stance for the year and donated to receive my poppy. I suppose I would reconsider the holiday thing when it came around to Christmas anyway - although being in Ottawa would make it difficult to really celebrate the big day.

But, I digress (no! not me!). Something happened yesterday to make me consider what Nov. 11 really means to me. On the train, I sat across from a woman wearing a white silk flower pinned to her coat. I took a second look and in the flower's centre was the word "Peace." At first, this seemed an appropriate gesture. We all want peace don't we?

But what is Remembrance day about? Is it celebrating war? I don't think so.

Now, to be fair, I haven't attended a Remembrance day service since I had to in school. My memory was a tad faded on what exactly we were honouring with the day. I remember men dressed in suits decorated with medals. Wreaths of poppies. That lone trumpeter sending chills down my spine. And of course, "In Flander's fields, the poppies blow; between the crosses, row on row..."

Most meant little to me then. Other than that interminable wait for a minute of silence. What did I have to remember? In reality, the first Remembrance day was "celebrated" in 1919. 70 years later, the reality of WWI and even WWII was lost on a farm girl in Saskatchewan. Sure, I knew some veterans. Who doesn't? I knew many of the men dressed in medal decorated suits, but I knew nothing about their time in the war.

So I did a little research. The Gov't of Canada has a great website about the day. We aren't celebrating war with the day. We're celebrating and honouring the people who did what they had to do, whether they gave their lives or not. We're remembering the cost of war and remembering history to prevent repeating it.

Remembrance Day isn't about war or peace. It's about the men and women who did what they felt they had to do.

Travel to The Netherlands and talk to the people there. May 4 every year, they honour a remembrance day for those who gave their lives. On May 5, they celebrate Liberation day - the day the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands was negotiated. I had a friend in the Canadian Armed Forces. After a tour in Bosnia, he took vacation in Europe. In the Netherlands, he sat in a pub. When the learned he was Canadian, he was treated as a friend. Canadian Military earned meant his glass was never empty.

Perhaps it's because in Canada we weren't at the heart of the war. Our homes and our way of life weren't threatened. We didn't face occupation simply because of where we lived - the Germans invaded the Netherlands to prevent the British from doing it. We simply did as we still do today. We sent our men to defend democracy and innocent lives. I understand that you may or may not agree with the reasons our troops are sent into war or peacekeeping missions. I'm not saying I agree with them either. I simply believe that those men and women don't make the decisions. They have a job to do and they put their lives in danger to do it.

So, I wear a poppy on my coat. I'm not endorsing war. I'm not encouraging war. I'm honouring and celebrating those who have changed the world by simply doing their jobs. They deserve no less.


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