Today is a day for remembering. When I was younger, I didn’t quite understand why. I didn’t have a grandfather or a great grandfather who fought in the war. I didn’t have cousins or uncles or aunts who were part of the military. I just knew that on November 11, our teachers would pass out red poppies and we would head to the gym to find older men and women dressed in beautiful uniforms with metals that would clink and clang as they walked by. They were there to hand out awards for Remembrance Day posters and poems and stories. Sadly, when I was younger I was more excited about winning a prize for my drawing than I was to honour the tens of thousands of people who fought for me. I was more excited to be given a piece of paper than to shake the hand of a veteran.
As the years passed, and I grew older, I began to develop a love for history – and more specifically military history. I was fascinated by the strategic planning that went into a battle, and the stories of the lives lost and the lives saved, the letters from loved ones at home, and the letters from the soldiers in the trenches, the photos of the prisoners of war and guards that kept them there. I began to realize that Remembrance Day was not about a winning paper, it was about the people. It was about the older men and women in that gym who saw guns, who saw blood, who saw graves… Who saw VICTORY. Now, there is not a Remembrance Day goes by without tears streaming down my face. No, I did not have grandfathers and great grandfathers fighting on the front line, but I am positive I had grandfathers and great grandfathers who supported our soldiers as much as they could from the home front. We must remember them as well. We must remember the brave families on our home soil who equally affected by war.
A dear friend of mine had a Grandfather who fought in the war. He was a member of the 23rd field ambulance of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. He saw many battles, including D-Day. Amy has heard many stories of this day. He landed on beach at Bernières-sur-Mer but he didn’t know how to swim. The only reason he survived the water landing was because of the number of men present. They created a wave that pushed him to the beach. Amy’s Grandfather survived D-Day. He survived the war. There is a happy ending to his story. He made it home and finally married the woman that inspired him to keep going while overseas!
He entrusted to Amy his scrapbooks of the war. She has pages and pages of documents, photos, and letters to his bride-to-be. Amy shared a poem he wrote to bride, and I couldn’t help but share it. It pulls at my heartstrings to know what this man witness. At the end of his poem he jokes to his bride that its a good thing he doesn’t have to support her by writing poems… But I think he was a very talented writer!
“You, I and War” by Joseph Harold Roach
When we get married and move away
To a land where peace and quiet hold sway,
We’ll often think of the war torn days,
Of screaming sirens and buildings ablaze…
Of England in the Blitzkrieg years,
When Britons all shed silent tears –
Ah, but then our Air Force grew and grew
And soon Berlin was suffering too.
And in future years when war’s no more,
Our thoughts will turn to ’44,
The year we met and soon discovered
That we were meant for one another…
And I proposed and you said “YES”,
So we decided, more or less
To see a preacher very soon –
But the Army said the 10th of June.
We planned and planned, oh but alas,
Our wedding never came to pass…
For the time had come and I went away
And landed in France that great ‘D-Day’.
Now here in a trench I reminisce,
And the memory comes back of that farewell kiss –
It wasn’t a good-bye kiss just then
But only ’til we meet again.
Although six months have passed too slow
And we still have quite a way to go.
It won’t be long ’til we finish the fight
And I’ll return to peace and quiet,
And you my darling I’ll make my wife
And fulfill my only dream in life.
I am forever thankful to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who fought and are still fighting for my freedom. They gave theirs lives for us. They experienced so many things that no one should ever witness. Without their sacrifices, the opportunities I have, that Olive have, would not exist. Thank you. Each and every one of you.