It is Remembrance Day in Canada and the Year of the Veteran. It is an important occasion to take some time and celebrate the freedom we enjoy and the sacrifice it took for us to enjoy it.
My Dad is 82 this year and he travelled back to Holland this past May for the first time in 60 years, since the liberation of Holland by the Canadian forces. He has come back with many stories and can hardly tell them without getting teary eyed.
My favourite story happened as he and my Mother were strolling through the war cemetary where his commanding officer was buried. (He died 6 days before the end of the war). They were approached by two young twin sisters about 8 years of age. These Dutch girls recognized that my father was a Canadian and to honour him and what he had done with the Canadian troups, they sang for him the Canadian National Anthem.
These girls couldn't speak a word of English, but their parents and probably their schools felt it was important for these girls to recognize the sacrifice of Canadians on behalf of the Dutch, so that they had been taught "Oh Canada" and then went to the cemetary hoping to share that gift.
Folks, this is 60 years later and the Dutch are still celebrating their freedom and giving thanks.
Today, I honour my father, Robert E. Rae, a veteran of World War II.
Here is another story from my friend Russell Friedman....
Friday Morning at Eleven
By Russell Friedman
In its day, World War One was called "The War to End All Wars."
Sadly, it wasn't.
WW I officially ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year, in 1918. Each year we commemorate that ending on Veteran's Day, which was originally called Armistice Day. There aren't too many folks left who were around when that came to pass.
My dad is 92 and he remembers. He was a lad of 8, in 1921, when the first unknown American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery England France
My dad just told me all about it. It's wonderful, in more ways than one, to be able to talk with my dad, and have such a direct link to the past. It's like having an interactive civics class with someone who can bring history to life.
In 1926, Congress passed a resolution formally designating November 11th as Armistice Day to honor those who gave their lives in WW I, which was also called The Great War. My Dad remembers because his Uncle Willy had gone off to that war. Uncle Willy returned, but his heart and soul never came back. My dad recalls too many nights being sent to the saloon to fetch Uncle Willy, who spent most of his post-war waking moments drowning his memories in booze.
"The War to End All Wars" claimed more than 10 million lives. In 1938 Congress acted again and declared Armistice Day a national holiday. The simple definition of armistice is truce. The idealistic hope that nothing of that scope would ever happen again was dashed just a few years later with the outbreak of World War Two. Then came Korea Viet Nam
Two years before I was born, my dad went down to Army headquarters in New York City
New York City
In 1954, the sacrifices of those who died in WW II and Korea
In 1968 Congress re-dated Veteran's day to fall each year on the fourth Monday of October. But the symbolism of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was lost, and with it the emotional gravity that had originally spawned the holiday. In addition, the Monday holiday began to take on a commercial, "long weekend" quality which diluted its initial respectful intent. In 1978, Congress wisely re-established November 11 as the official observance of Veteran's Day.
Like my dad, a major physical liability kept me from participating in the armed forces of our country. Also like my dad, I always remember to respect and thank those who were or are members of any of the services that protect my life and my liberty. I feel compelled to honor those whose actions give me the right to vote, the right to voice my opinion, to argue with authority, even to be a jerk from time to time. Today, the first person I will thank is John W. James, my business partner and friend — make that friend and business partner. John is a Viet Nam combat veteran, and through the 19 years of our friendship I have learned things about war and what it does to people's souls — things that I could not know, not having been there.
I have watched John make the spirit of Veteran's Day into a real-life set of actions. I have watched him "not forget." I have watched his walk and talk match as the hostilities in Iraq
It's not possible for me to read those responses with dry eyes.
Today, this country will observe Veteran's Day. Personally, I think it takes on exponential importance in light of the events that have shaped and shaken our world over the past four years. To do it justice, I will stop whatever I'm doing at eleven in the morning and walk over to John's desk and thank him. Knowing me, I guarantee that there will be tears in my eyes. And that will be okay.
Because I will be stopping to think about war and its ongoing aftermath, I will also be reminded of other people who are no longer here. Not just veterans. I will think of my mom who died thirteen years ago this month. I will think of other relatives and friends who are gone. I will have the emotions attached to those memories, and I will talk about them with anyone who happens to show up in my life that day.
I will absolutely reach out and touch anyone who calls, emails or bumps into me at the office, in a restaurant, or in the park with my dog.
Lest we forget!