Tuesday, 11 November 2014
Perhaps I will speak of my very limited time in the military, as today is the day we set aside to remember the fallen, and the fighters. I have been around for 58 November 11th memorial days. I have some of my military uniform still hanging in my closet, however, I do NOT consider myself a Veteran. I was only in for a few years, during peace time. I will, however, tell you what made me decide to join up to serve my country. I did not join up, because it was peace time. That part had nothing to do with what called me. I would have joined, knowing I could very well be sent off to war.
The idea of becoming a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, began before I graduated High School. I have told you all how I grew up in a very small town. Well, sometimes, when you live so closely with everyone, without media, of any sort, beyond a few hours of radio, you listen. I listened to stories, I heard the words of many men and women who had fought for our country. They were all over town. See, I grew up when many parents of friends had fought in World War 11, however, I also knew that many of those lonely old people, who perhaps did a fair bit of drinking, had fought for their country during World War 1. November 11th, was a solemn day, when I was a child. The Cenotaph had names listed of Uncles, and Cousins,and sons, of those who would follow the march along the Highway. I remember looking at those who lost family, and the sadness on their faces. War was very real for those who were born only a decade or so, after 1945.
In school, November 11th, was not a day off, to sleep in, it was a day we prepared for, to honour those who went without sleep, who suffered pain, who went far from home, away from their loved ones, to fight for rights and freedom. Many of these , never came home. This day, we were taught how very lucky we were to be able to live our lives, as Canadians. We were taught the price that others had to pay for this right, and we understood.
I suppose this day, perhaps made a bigger mark on me, than most. I was not the brightest student, nor the most athletic, I did not have a dream to become a teacher, or nurse, I expect I recognized these careers, were just not meant for me. However, I could do something amazing, something that truly mattered, I could write the Department of National Defence, and sign up.
Hah! I thought that would be a simple matter, so in the midst of Grade 12, I sent off my letter. The reply was not what I expected. Apparently there were no openings. Geez, that was a bit of a shock. So..I graduated, and went off first to work at the mine, and then at the local bank.
While working at the bank, I went off on a trip with a friend. We happened to stop in Vancouver, on our way home, and the hotel we stayed at, was close to the Canadian Armed Forces recruiting center. On a lark, I went into the center, asked for an application, and filled it out. It was pretty exciting, just to be in that building, everyone was in uniform, and I knew this was where I belonged. I handed the application in, and went on my merry way, back to working in the bank. A few weeks later, I got my acceptance letter, they wanted me to join up.
I will tell you, my time in the Forces, was the best time of my life! Oh, it was certainly not easy, I ended up catching the German Measles part way through my 11 weeks of Basic training, and had the pleasure of an extra 3 weeks with a second platoon, and basic training was not a walk in the park. I came close to giving up a few times, but I knew others had done this before me, and many had done so, while at war, it would get better, and..it did.
To march on parade, with 40 others, who started their training in a platoon of well over 70, to know I was one of those who "made the grade", to experience such an overwhelming sense of pride, is unforgettable.
I did not stand out, I did not receive the marksmanship trophy, or the Commandant's award. I was simply a Private, in the uniform of my country. I imagine the sense of pride I felt, is still felt by those who chose to join up. To this day, when I see a platoon on parade, I will feel the tingle. I know what it is like to stand for hours in the heat, or the rain, on the tarmac. I know the agony of the "slow march" that those who carry the caskets of our fallen must endure, along with the pain of saying goodbye to a comrade. I know most everyone of those, wearing Canada's uniform, are doing so, because, deep in their hearts, they know how precious the right to freedom is, and remember the costs, paid by those who came before us.
Today I saw a post from a friend who happened to be in a store, at the 11th minute of the 11th hour, on November 11th. She said the employees were mostly young people (likely getting stuck working the holiday). The music stopped, and everyone observed the moment of silence. To hear this, I am thankful. I am thankful that, it is not just the old people, like me, who understand the enormity of this single day..To hope, that this solemn moment, that has lasted since it was designated by King George V, back in 1919, continues on forever, seems possible.
Lest we forget