It’s a couple of days after Remembrance Day. We’ve taken off our poppies, returned to work and school, and our thoughts are now moving towards when to take out the Christmas decorations. It’s the same whether you’re a civilian or in uniform. We all came together to pause, remember and give thanks at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month and with that duty performed we keep going.
I’d like to suggest we keep going together. It is a well-researched and documented fact that although soldiers do fight for ‘Queen and country’ and other noble causes, the main reason soldiers are willing to risk and potentially lose their lives is for their brothers and sisters in arms – their friends, their trench-mates and their fellow crew members. In a nutshell, soldiers fight for each other. Having survived through the realities of war, our veterans also feel compelled to maintain societal awareness as a means to dissuade future conflict.
For families of veterans, both living and fallen, Remembrance Day also serves a very important function – that of education and understanding. Which is why I believe that while Remembrance Day is important, it is only a means to an end. If we are to actually achieve what veterans want – to learn through remembrance so we can avoid future conflicts, we need to practise the act of remembrance throughout the year. In that spirit, I offer a few ideas to make acts of remembrance something we do throughout the year.
I have spent many an afternoon, on November 11th participating in post-parade receptions at Legions across Canada. It is a true ‘band of brothers and sisters’ spanning multiple generations and incredible experiences. Invariably, groups of veterans, serving soldiers, families and friends will subdivide into smaller, intimate groups.
The discussions always start off with comments on the weather, the length of the ceremony and other idle chatter. Invariably, a comment will be made about the dwindling number of veterans present at the ceremony and, over time, the discussion turns to reminisce about a time in a Veteran’s life where friendship, comradery and trench-mates were all important. Soldiers, both serving and retired, refer to this as telling war stories. The serving soldiers shut up and listen carefully as there is much to be learned from the veterans, it is truly an educational experience.
Our soldiers fully comprehend the importance of this interaction with our veterans and will often stay until late in the evening. It is of utmost importance to our veterans that their fallen friends and their reasons for fighting, not be forgotten and that future wars be avoided at all costs.
Drawing attention to these stories on Remembrance Day is critically important; learning from them in order to secure our peace and security is something we as citizens need to practise throughout the year.