Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

89 years ago today, the bells of peace pealed across the landscape of Europe. The "War to End All Wars", tragically a misnomer, had come to an end.

In the many years since, we have seen and heard much of war here, tucked away safely by geography and distance. Some have tried to paint the World Wars as glorious triumphs of the human spirit.

Triumphs? Certainly. But war holds no glory. Only death, and suffering.

My ancestors tilled the fertile soil in the fresh, new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. When hostilities broke out between the British Empire and the Kaiser's Germany, these ancestors saw even the most basic of their farm implements confiscated by the Canadian government, for fear that with names like "Schmidt" and "Kroenader" they might be enemy infiltrators. And yet, these men, and hundreds like them, reported to enlistment offices across their new country, volunteered, were given weapons and went back to the country of THEIR ancestors, to fight their own cousins for the freedoms of generations yet unborn, in both countries.

Many never came home. The ones that did were never the same.

The men and women who have died serving our country deserve our commemoration. On this day, and on ALL days. However, while you are observing your moment of silence today at 11 a.m. local time, also pay your due respect to those who came home from these terrible conflicts. Those who fell in the field paid for our freedoms with their lives - however, they now sleep in peace. Any combat veteran can tell you that peaceful sleep is rare for them - the faces of comrades lost, or atrocities witnessed, of the men they had no choice but to kill...

The ones who came home paid in blood for our freedom, and have done so every night since. Let us not forget them, even while we pay our respects to their fallen brothers and sisters-in-arms. We owe ALL that we have to the sacrifices that they and their torch-bearers made, and continue to make.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.