Thursday this week is Remembrance Day, and for a lot of us, it is a free day off work where we can sleep in, catch up on housework and pick away at something on our endless to do lists to get completed. We may watch a war documentary, a news story about a local veteran or, if you are a nerd like me, read a historical fiction book. We may attend a Remembrance Day Ceremony, or watch one on TV, have a moment of silence and then go home, or turn the TV off. Then, for most of us, we will go about our day and not think about it much again until November of next year.
That is the point. These men and women who fought in our wars and peace-keeping missions and anything else while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces was just for that. It was so everyone, you and me, do not have to worry about things. We do not have to worry about wars in far off lands. We do not have to worry about flood zones or natural disasters. We do not have to worry about having the resources and ability to keep our country safe and we can sleep safely in our beds knowing that. That is why these individuals do what they do and once a year we can do our best to say thank you.
Regardless of what you think of war, or violence, or whatever other negative descriptors you want to place on why we need a military in the first place, remember that behind these attitudes and beliefs, there are still people involved. These individuals may agree with your perspectives, they may agree that wars have no real benefit and they may agree that they wish they didn’t have to do what they do, but they still do it. I am going to repeat that; THEY STILL DO IT.
They still get up at the crack of dawn to go on exercise so that they are prepared for their next tour or next call to action. They still go to various places across Canada and the world in the dead of winter or heat of summer to help locations facing natural disasters. They will still move from place to place and uproot their families so that they can be trained and prepared for whatever task our government throws their way. And yes, they still will leave their families and kids for months on end to go to a war that you may not agree with.. watching their friends and colleagues get injured and die along the way.
And for my household, it is extra personal. For those of you who do not know me, Husband is an Afghanistan Veteran who went overseas for 8 months in the spring of 2010. He, along with his comrades, spent an ample amount of time in danger, fighting a war and putting their safety at risk for hours, days and months on end. He helped build schools, search and destroy bombs and engage in firefights with the enemies. He did that and so much more and then he came home. He came home to me with a new-found perspective on life and a slew of problems. He came home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression and for a long time, although not anymore, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. For many years in our young life, all we dealt with was related to the military. Not only in his day-to-day life, or job, but for years after he was medically released for his conditions.
His eight months in Afghanistan changed his, and my life, in a way that is indescribable. It brought a wealth of challenges that most individuals would be unable to face or manage. It led to a lot of heartache and arguments and hospitalizations. It led to having to defend his choices for joining, his choices for going overseas and his choices for how he handled it coming home. He was met with a lot of judgement and inconsideration. I was met with the same for choosing to stay with him through it all. And, it led to a lot of advocacy and caregiving on my part to ensure that Husband got the support he needed from Veteran’s Affairs. It brought a lot of life tribulations to a couple who were 21 when he went over and had very little understanding of the realities of the world. Who spent over ten years trying to navigate how upturned our life was and that we had no tools in order to deal with it.
And yet, looking back at it all, we learned so many good things as well. It brought a wealth of life insight and knowledge that is unmet by most. We have learned the power of a true friendship and that those comrades and their families will be in our lives forever. We have learned to be thankful for what we are fortunate enough to have instead of focusing on what we don’t. We have learned patience, with each other and with society as a whole. We have learned the intricacies of the world and that no one, and I mean no one, has the right to judge anyone for the choices they make in their lives. We are all multi-faceted and have parts of ourselves that have room for improvement and growth. Most important of all, we have learned to love deeper and to learn the true meaning of the word unconditionally. We love each other. Period. Through it all.
And for myself personally, I have learned how to truly be proud. Proud of the endless and ongoing small steps that Husband took day after day to get well and to face the demons that his time at war had created for him. Proud of the fact that he is a soldier and that he, like many others, are part of a group who have experienced something that none of us ever want to, or ever will have to, because of them. And pride in being married to a veteran. That I can hold my own head high and feel a warmth in my chest every time someone asks me what my husband does. Husband is no longer in the military sure, but for the rest of our lives, I will be proud that he fought for our country.
So, all I ask from you is that for one day, one hour even, you have some respect. You push aside your political views and attitudes and remember that there are TONS of those veterans, men and women, who deserve that respect. They deserve for you to take the time out of your day to go to that Remembrance Day Ceremony, to be present, and treat it with the honour that it deserves. They earned that acknowledgement and appreciation and the best part of all is that they would never ask for it. So, that is what I am doing. I am asking you all to do this. Be respectful. Take a moment. Acknowledge what our country has asked of them. And most important of all, say Thank you.
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn them. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.– Laurence Binyon, “Ode of Remembrance