It was 10:55am on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2016. I had just gotten out of a routine checkup at my doctor’s office in Cambridge, and I hopped into the car to drive to the office. I drove through downtown Galt and noticed cones on the street, blocking Ainslie Street. I looked down the street, and a crowd of people were gathered at the armoury.
Right, I thought to myself, it’s Remembrance Day. I didn’t have time to stop, so I turned on the radio to the CBC to listen to the ceremony on Parliament Hill.
I grew up in the USA, so military respect and patriotism are in my blood. My dad served in the Navy, and my grandpa and all his brothers served in various armed forces. Veteran’s Day always meant that my dad would stand up at church on Sunday when the pastor thanked the people who had served in the military — beyond that, I didn’t really ever think about what it actually meant to serve in the military.
I listened to the service which consisted of beautiful songs, prayers, mementos, and the traditional reading of In Flanders Fields. Then there was the moment of silence. I started to put myself in the place of the men and women who we remember and honour each year. I pictured myself in a mud ditch in World War I, bombs going off, and soaked to the bone, thousands of kilometres from my family. I pictured myself jumping out of a helicopter, with bullets flying past my ears, to save a fellow Canadian in the field of battle. I pictured myself toiling through the desert sands of the Middle East; there because I had given up the right to choose where I go in order to serve and protect the ideal of freedom that we get to live in every day.
Then I pictured a soldier dying on the battlefield, a world away from his wife and children. That’s when my tears began to fall. What our armed forces do for us is an ultimate act of servant leadership. It’s inspiring and humbling.
Whatever your political affiliation, whatever your stance is on war, remember and honour the people in our military who make it possible for us to live the lives we live. Wear your poppy proudly. Go out of your way to say thanks to a veteran today. They mean more to us than we’ll ever know.