There has been a lot of talk lately about Remembrance type ceremonies and if they perpetuate war. People, I suspect it is people who seldom attend or have no real connection to the experience, are refusing to go.
I used to live in Canada. 4th generation Canadian who grew up in a country mainly known for peace keeping and being incredibly polite. I didn’t know anyone who had served in the war and I certainly didn’t know anyone who was in the army. I never lost a moment of sleep worrying that anyone might not come home.
My “engagement” in Vietnam was from a safe distance looking on at things I vaguely understood.
When I married my husband here in Australia, involvement in these types of “remembrances” were completely different. I did not know what to expect so I sat back and observed. I will never miss another service. For me attendance has nothing to do with “celebrating” or “glorifying” war. Quite the contrary, it impacts me on a very deep and profound level and I find myself considering many things.
I look around at all the people attending and all the men and women marching by. I take note of the young cadets and those attending in uniform who are currently in service and I am reminded that my freedoms and comforts come at a price and I feel this incredible responsibility for myself, my gratitude, and my awareness of people around me. I watch as people wipe tears and realize that the dead and physically wounded are not the only victims and that love sometimes does what is difficult and is willing to sacrifice completely, not only for their own family, but for a nation. I realize that war takes ordinary people and turns their lives upside down, even if they are the victors. It deepens my resolve to do everything I can to work towards a better world where people don’t resolve their conflicts by fighting.
For me, that means working harder at speaking kinder, at trying to understand others. It means working to erase the lines that divide us and making sure I set an example within my own circles of doing exactly that. ANYTHING that I do that fosters bad feelings has to be worked on because take that, multiply it by the billions of people on the earth, deepen it, intensify it and you move to bullying, to hating, to gangs, to wars.
So no, I don’t go there and think “Wow this is so cool, wish I had been a soldier.” I don’t see young people with their eyes shining with anything other than tears for the parents and grandparents and siblings they have lost. It is important to remember those who served, those who died, and those who are still with us. Why? Because the fact people are able to complain about this day, to CHOOSE to not attend, to want to work for a better way is BECAUSE of their sacrifice.
You can decide that a situation was wrong or needless. You can question why it happened and the morals and ethics of those who made the decision. But it does not negate or diminish the actions of those who went and gave their lives to do as they were asked. I don’t care that there are “bad” soldiers. Many of these men fought in wars where they knew nothing except that their country needed them and that liberties were on the line. Because today we know that war is big business and governments are corrupt does not mean those men who fought for us are worthless. You have no idea what the cost has been for the survivors. They came back to a life that was never going to be the same for them the moment they became soldiers.
Saying thanks is not enough.
One day does not seem like much but it is one day I will freely give to remembering their service and thanking them for it.