As there is a statutory holiday next week the rugby world is suspended for the observance of Remembrance Day there are no games slated besides some Make Up games.
This is a topic that is now near and dear to my heart.
Growing up in Newton in the 1970's meant there were 4 places in Surrey for grown men to drink alcohol and the cheapest was the Newton, Whalley, and Cloverdale Legions. The Legions were just 'beer parlours' to me. Three of my uncles served in World War 2, their service portraits hung in our house, (one was killed in France-one survived the war to come home and be killed in a traffic accident as he tried to aid another driver on a Manitoba highway-the third came home and was a delivery driver for Sears in Winnipeg until his retirement). My father wasn't attached to the military, but he joined the Legion as an Associate Member. The Legion hosted Christmas Parties that gave gifts to Members children, as a young person it was amazing to come to this place that I was barred from due to my age, and see the military themed art on the walls and see the inside of the place my father spoke of with honour and pride. I still thought it was just a private pub. I'm ashamed to say that attitude continued for many years and I began to see the poppy drive as a scam and refused to participate for several years. Over the years I had the occasion to speak with volunteers and veterans to truly understand the good work the Legion does for veterans of all conflicts. The turning point for me came when my daughter marched in a Remembrance Day parade as a Girl Guide. The day was chilly, as a November 11th will be, and during the reading of the names of the fallen it struck me like a religious experience. I could suddenly imagine the young men and boys who couldn't wait to sign up to go to war and did so with no hesitation. I was also immediately and just as struck by the thoughts that, forbid my children be put in that position. I could respect the Legion and I had the greatest reverence for anyone who would choose to put themselves in harms way in military service, let alone to see actual combat. I couldn't imagine myself in those shoes and let's hope it never comes to that for anyone.
My experience took an extremely personal point of view in the last few years. In 2015 I was fortunate enough to take my family to Europe, where we were honoured to visit Vimy Ridge where the Dominion of Canada was represented by 4 Divisions of troops who fought together for the first time and under Canadian leadership for the first time. The sacrifice on that ground was were our country was essentially baptized in the blood of its fallen. After the battle was successfully concluded and with the objective taken, at a time when no one else was able to do it, our tiny nation put itself on the map. In the subsequent battles to follow Canada earned and was given our own individual right to be our own signers of the Armistice and NOT a part of the British delegation. Walking through the nearby military cemetery I was struck again by the ages of names on the bright white headstones in row after row. They aged from 18-23 years on average, with very many under 20 years old. It absolutely strikes home when you consider that most of our current playing roster is in this demographic. It further struck home that my son, standing with me on the beautiful monument that was unveiled by King George VI, was 18 years old and 100 years earlier would have been on this battlefield. On that day also I was extremely honoured to be the first family member that I know of to visit my uncles war grave in Leubringhen, France. The marker for Pvt. W.M. Ramsay killed 7 September 1944 shone like a beacon as the wet marble blinded us periodically when the sun came out on a very blustery day. I was proud to be able to fulfill this journey on behalf of my father who passed before he could manage the trip. My uncle had lied about his age, saying he was 18 instead of his actual 16 years to enlist(This was a common event all over the country and around the world). He was eventually found out and the Canadian Military gave my grandmother the opportunity to bring him home. She refused, knowing he would resent her, and he was killed in battle. Imagine living with the guilt having to make that decision. Since then I have also been honoured to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, where 1177 men were lost in a single moment with a single bomb on December 7, 1941. There were many more losses on that day beside those on the Arizona, but to know those men are still entombed in the wreckage as it continues to slowly leak fuel 77 years later. The names are carved in granite and a US Park Ranger does his best to make a few of the names come to life with personal stories of individuals. There are few more solemn places in the world.
Going forward, let us the living revere the fallen from every conflict. Let us revere all of those in service and make sure to thank a veteran for his or her service every chance we get.
I know it can't be better said;
In Flanders Fields
BY JOHN MCCRAE
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
November 11th isn't just a STAT holiday, it's not a day off with pay. It's a time to go to a cenotaph and participate, and thank a veteran in person, especially as the greatest generation, those who fought World War 2, are in their twilight years. I have a laminated picture of my uncle that I take to the cenotaph ceremony every year so that young people who may have no concept of what this is all about can put a real face to the name for the occasion.
Please observe a ceremony this year or, at the very least, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month pause and take a moment of silence where ever you are.
Just trying to capture the spirit of the thing.......