Monday, November 09, 2009

The Wounds of War

This Wednesday there will be another parade from the Canadian Legion to the Cenotaph, which -- appropriately enough -- is on Main Street, in the geographical centre of town. Each year there are fewer veterans who march to the Cenotaph; and they march there more haltingly.

I live in small town Ontario -- in a place whose existence was officially recognized 170 years ago. The town was founded by United Empire Loyalists, people who thought Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were rabble rousers. Their allegiance was always to Britain; and so, when the mother country entered two wars in the last century, this town's sons -- ready, aye, ready -- lined up to defend the mother country. The names of the residents who died in those causes are engraved on that monument at the centre of town.

One of our veterans died last spring. On D-Day he was on Juno Beach, where he was wounded. He returned here with a limp and the click of a leg brace, to teach where I taught high school. He himself taught history; and every year, on November 11th, he took it upon himself to organize -- even long after he retired -- the school's Remembrance Day ceremonies. His roots were Loyalist. And, even though there were many who did not agree with his politics, his personal integrity was beyond reproach. He loved his family; he loved his country; he loved his town. And, for him, public service was the highest calling.

I think of him this week. I think of the gunman and his victims in Texas. And I think of this generation's dead soldiers who are flown from Afghanistan to Trenton, not far from here. I think of all the wounded, who have returned home, forever changed. When I was young, I was foolish enough to think that we could banish war the way we had banished polio -- forgetting that the Book of Ecclesiastes warned us long ago that war was cyclical and seasonal. There is something unbearably sad in that realization. And that is precisely why we must remember those who have died, and those who were wounded, this Wednesday.

We, who were fortunate enough to not bear their burdens, enjoy the fruits of their labours.


Anonymous said...

I had three brothers and a sister who served in WW11. They fought to free the many country's from Hitler. They fought against fascism, they never wanted to see Canada destroyed, But, what citizens are seeing now, is corruption, lying deceit, and, government officials, stealing funds from citizens to fatten their wallets. I no longer attend Armistice Day services. I see the RCMP, there, and governing officials, who have no right to attend those services. That is the very thing our young boy's, fought against, and died for.

Owen Gray said...

I understand your cynicism and your anger. For too long now we have fooled ourselves into thinking that self interest is in the public interest.

Your brothers and sister believed in another Canada. If there is hope, it lies in rejecting the conviction that each one of us is in it for ourselves. We are in it for our children and our grandchildren.