I have waited for two months to write this. I wanted to start it last Tuesday but like people all over the world, had to hold my breath until the weekend. But I want to say now that even though the outgoing occupant of the Whitehouse made many painful statements over the last four years, one of the most hurtful was to hear him call fallen soldiers, “losers and suckers.”
I don’t care if you are a Canadian or an American soldier of any war fought to protect our freedom and help save the lives of others, you are our heroes.
Without your sacrifice, so much of what we have now would have been lost; democracy, the free press, the right to peaceable assembly, free speech and to live in ways that people in so many other countries only dream about. We have this only because of what so many of you gave up including your lives.
You sacrificed so that we could write these words or protest even against the actions of our governments. You sacrificed hoping that we too would use our lives in the service of others and to make this world a better place as you did. By your very actions, you showed us what courage, moral standards, and integrity look like. You set the measure from which the lives that came after could flow. You showed us the meaning of the word valour.
We know that our protests happen because you made them possible. People in other parts of the world are jailed or killed for that every day.
We also remember that many of you were young when you signed up; little more than children yourselves; 16 and 17 who left the safety of their farm or small towns to join the fight to protect us. Never could you imagine the horror of what was to come. And never could you have imagined that one of those maimed or killed would be you. You are NOT suckers or losers; you are the stuff true people are made of, our ancestors whose very blood flows through our veins today. We remember.
Every year on Remembrance Day when we see those of you still with us dressed in your uniforms at memorial services, and notice the tears trickle down your cheeks and can only imagine what rolls through your minds. Only recently years has it been acceptable to talk about and heal PTSD. Before that you fought those inner demons on your own.
When I read Canadian Dr. John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Field, I see Dr. McCrae sitting with the wounded in the back of an ambulance where the poem was written surrounded by the wounded bodies of his fellow soldiers. For perspective, this was his description of life on the battlefront: “For seventeen days and seventeen nights, none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds … And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the sounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the time should give way.”
You are our heroes. In his callousness the president he may have forgotten, but we never will. We are connected to you by the blood you shed which is the same blood that runs through our own veins today. You are our ancestors and we will not forget.
Today, Nov. 11, we are gathering in many ways to commemorate your gift to us; some of us will watch services on the television; others will attend small, distanced gatherings and still others will join in small gatherings. But at 11 a.m. sharp, we will stop wherever we are and whatever we are doing and together in silence we will hear the trumpet sound out its lonesome revere as it did on those battlefields so long ago.
And we will remember. We will always, always remember.