Once a year we observe a day or just a moment of silence in honour of those lost in the wars and what the sacrifices of thousands of men and women have meant for our present day. And, I can’t help but reflect on the actions that have led to this significant day.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t always look on Remembrance Day as something deserving of respect. I naïvely thought of this day as a foolish way of praising people who did unspeakable acts all in the name of “freedom.” That is, of course, until I started to spend A LOT of time with veterans from the Second World War.
My time working with veterans began shortly after my Grandpa was admitted to Camp Hill, Halifax’s veterans’ hospital. Every few weeks I would join my step-dad and Gramma for the weekly Tuesday Night Bingo. Not long after, those ‘every few weeks’ turned into every week, and before long I was an official volunteer – badge and all! This gig lasted just about two years, until I made the decision to complete my Bachelor’s degree.
It was in these weekly gatherings that I got to know many of the hospital’s residents. I met their families, heard stories of their childhoods and the girls they ‘chased’ while overseas, and learned that playing for snacks was way more important/exciting than money. I learned about the complexity of life and aging. But most importantly I learned that these men were not bad people for opting to fight in a war. They were boys, who were still living with the consequences of those actions – actions that have shaped what Canada looks like today. It took me until that opportunity to realize that in many cases the decision to sign up for deployment was a better alternative to a life believed to be far worse. And while I can’t comment on whether or not there was truth in that alternative, what I can say is that the results were lasting. We, as humans, are not equipped to deal with the repercussions of witnessing such horrors – not then, and not now.
I feel such shame when I look back at how I had thought about this day. But, I am thankful for the lessons, even if unintentional, that each resident taught me. Those were and likely will be some of the most positive and happy times of my life. So please, I urge you, today take a step back. Think about where you’re living. Ask yourself if you’d be willing to make the same sacrifice under the same circumstances. I am certainly not in favour of violence – I wish we could find an end to it the world over. But, if I have learned anything, it’s that the decision process for ‘opting in’ isn’t always as simple as we may think. Sometimes it’s just about finding a way out. Sometimes it’s about finding oneself. Sometimes it’s nothing more than hope for a better, more peaceful world.
-the Orange Canadian