Wednesday, 11 November 2015


It's Remembrance Day here in Canada today. In the US, it's Veteran's Day. Two very different memorials. In Canada we take time to remember the men and women who have died in the service of their country. In the US, they take the day to remember all those who have served in their military. Yet both of these memorials honour those who made that most basic of commitments, to offer their lives up in the service of a nation.

Both of my grandfathers fought in the First World War, as did my great-grandfather and my great uncle. My Uncle Adam fought in the Second World War. My Dad served in the Korean War. Two of my brothers served in the peacetime Canadian Navy. My nephew served in both the US Air Force and the US Army, serving his country over in Iraq. I am well acquainted with the process and impact of military service, although I have not served myself.

I struggle with war as a notion. I am certain it happens; there is no struggle within me as to the fact of war. My struggle lies in questioning the value of it. It is a final act of failed diplomacy, a last step where one nation or tribe or group seeks to impose its will, its values, on another nation, tribe, or group. As a student of history, I read much of what has transpired in the history of war, and ask myself what difference it really made.

This wondering about the notion of war in no way offers disrespect to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, or to those who have served and survived. The fact of war means we will always have those amongst us who fight, those who are willing to die for our ideals as a nation. We did not ask for Hitler, nor did we ask for ISIS. Whatever global conditions bring these belligerents to fruition, when they arrive, nations of conscience must respond.

I simply wonder if it will ever be possible to live in a world where mankind seeks to use methods other than war to resolve disputes. We are a fractious species, prone to violence, willing to take up arms in ever increasing efficiency. It seems to be a basic in our nature, that we seek to kill one another in order to impose our will.

War, it seems, will ever be with us. Young men and women will ever be placed in the line of fire in order to serve their country's will. Civilians will ever die, victims of collateral damage. Economies, societies, cultures, whole nations will die out as a result. It seems such a shame, that this is who we are. Surely one day we will reach the point where Remembrance Day will be just that, a moment of memory.

Just not today. For me, I will remember. I will remember my grandfather, not as a member of the Old Contemptibles, but as a wonderful man who made my life better. I will remember my uncle, not as a soldier of fortune, but as the man who gave stuffed animals to my children and made them laugh. I will remember my Dad, not as a Korean war veteran, but as the man who gave me life, taught me much, left too soon. My remembrance will be as much about peace as war.

It cannot be so for all of us. Some are lost. Some return so damaged as to be lost all over again. For some, remembrance of the losses in battle are all too real. For those men and women, remembrance is fraught with pain and difficulty. I honour them, and look to a day when war will be a memory.

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