On Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. did you stop for a moment of silence to pay tribute to the individuals who put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country? My wife and I make it a practice each year to stand and watch on television the Remembrance Day services from the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
As the camera panned the crowd pausing to focus in on a veteran, I couldn’t help but ponder the question: What are they thinking? Looking at the faces, I was reminded of the words from the 30 Seconds to Mars’ song From Yesterday: "On his face is a map of the world." What memories good and bad do those faces have?
A few years ago I visited the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I took my two nephews. In one of the displays there was a simulation of a landing craft that was used to transport troops to the beaches of Normandy.
Projected on the screen in front of the craft was the beach landing scene, with battle sounds echoing off the walls, as the door to the craft fell forward to discharge its cargo.
I explained to the boys their late grandfather manned a machine gun on a landing craft during the Second World War. He was a tank wireless operator in training but, on D-Day he was given the job of shooting a machine gun from a landing craft, over the heads of the Canadian troops as they disembarked.
As a 17-year-old in the Canadian reserves, I remember a field exercise of taking a fortified position. We were instructed to fix bayonets, climb out of a ditch and run 50 yards across an open field firing at an enemy located in the remains of a basement foundation. I remember struggling to maintain the run, while trying to aim a rifle, plinking off blank rounds as the enemy hidden behind stone wall kept rattling off their rounds. They had machine guns; we had semi-automatic rifles. A question came to my young mind that day and still remains with me: Would I have the courage to get out of the ditch and make that open field run if it was real bullets being fired?
The men and women who are our Armed Forces carry an enormous burden and make the ultimate sacrifice to serve. On Remembrance Day, I hope you didn’t argue the lack of merit armed conflict has as your reason to not participate. Your ability to have that discussion and take your stand was paid for by the decisions of others.
You may not agree with the approach your country takes to resolve a conflict. You do need to stop and respect the individuals who took up arms for that call and forever changed their lives. The silence is a show of respect for them. Your silence honours the person, not the cause.
Sean Conway is a River Park South-based writer. Neighbourhood Forum is a readers’ column. If you live in The Lance area and would like to contribute to this column, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.