"The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." - Douglas MacArthur
Tomorrow is Remembrance Day here in Canada. I believe it is called Memorial Day in the states (I'm pretty sure that's what it's called) but no matter what it's titled, it's a day that we remember those who served and currently serve in our military forces.
It's a tough day for me. And not, perhaps, for the reasons that it's a tough day for a lot of people. I'll be perfectly honest, it's tough because I'm 29 years old, and I’ve never ever been touched personally by the brutal realities of war or conflict. I do not have close family members or friends who serve or have served. I've never suffered distance of having someone away serving, or the loss of someone who makes that ultimate sacrifice. And I can't pretend to understand the longing, and grief, and sadness that those who have experienced that have.
I can remember growing up and being proud that Canada's military forces were known as Peacekeepers throughout the world. And I can't remember when we stopped calling them Peacekeepers and started calling them Soldiers again. That scares me a little bit...
More recently, the stretch of highway 401 that goes through my town (actually from Trenton to Toronto) has been renamed the "Highway of Heroes". It's because soldiers that have fallen overseas arrive at CFB Trenton and have to make the journey from Trenton to Toronto where the coroner's office is located. When this journey and the escort of vehicles that accompanies it started happening far too often, people - regular, everyday people - started taking to the overpasses to wave flags, stand at attention, and act as a kind of civilian honour guard for these soldiers coming home. Every time I hear of a soldier coming through and I see people gathered on those overpasses, I'm struck by how much conflict touches each and every one of us, whether it's "personal" or not. And yet, I still find it tough...
See - here's the thing. I've never lost anyone to conflict, personally. But I am a Canadian, and though I'm frightened by the fact that our forces have becoming soldiers and not peacekeepers anymore, I'm struck by the idea that perhaps the reason behind that is this. Canada - a peaceful nation, not only has forces to serve our own country, but because we recognize that we are ALL citizens of the same planet, we cannot stand by and allow an injustice to continue... but how far is too far? How much is too much to ask? I don't know. I know that every time a soldier travels the Highway of Heroes, I feel like it is one too many.
One, is one too many.
So on November 11, at 11am, I will stand in my home, and be silent for a moment. I will think of those who fought and strove for our freedom and for justice in our world in two world wars, and many conflicts since then. I will say a prayer and thank God for those who fought for freedom and railed against injustice...
But I will ALSO say a prayer that one day; hopefully even in the lives of my children and grandchildren that war and conflict will be something that is ONLY taught in History class... not current events. That one day everyone will recognize that we are all citizens of this one planet, that we are called to be caretakers, not soldiers. That the wellbeing of this planet and all those who live on it is all of our responsibility - equally.
I can't pretend to understand those who serve or who have family or friends who serve, or understand the courage and strength and wherewithal that it requires.
But on Remembrance Day, I can remember them.
And I will.