Lest we forget

What is a nation but a group of people united by common principles and traditions? A nation as diverse as ours can easily be pulled apart into competing factions, and this does happen occasionally to some degree. This why our common principles and our traditions are so important, so much a part of what defines us as a people and as a nation.

War is and always will be a horrible thing, something to be avoided at nearly all costs. Loss of freedom to tyranny is one cost too great even to avoid war, and so, when war broke out in Europe early in the twentieth century, the people of Canada answered the call. Over 620,000 men and women signed up and the rest did all they could at home to support the war effort. Many never came back. Many came back broken, physically or mentally. All suffered loss in some way.

The nations of Europe swore peace and promised never to do it again. But they did, and again, the Canadian people again went to war. They went voluntarily, knowing the costs, still feeling the losses from the Great War of Europe.

My dad was one of them. Young, patriotic and eager he ran down to a recruitment office to sign up. He was a hearty fifteen-year-old, and lied about his age so they took his name. But his high school principal found out and marched down to the recruitment office and told the officer to take Harold Wilde’s name off the books.

So the eager young warrior went to a different recruiting office and signed up again. But this raised suspicions and he was called into a meeting with his Principal. His principal made an offer, to him and a group of other eager would-be recruits: that if they would wait a year, they could do an accelerated curriculum, graduate from high school a year early, and then they could sign up. And that is what they did.

Dad never talked about the war when I was a kid. I think it was partly because the scars were still too fresh, and partly because he did not want to glorify war to a young boy. The war had ended fifteen years before I was born but it still was a significant part of our lives and culture. To this day, despite our involvement in many other conflicts around the world, Canadians still call it “the war”.

Passchendale, The Somme, Vimy Ridge: the Great War defined us as a nation. The Second World War cemented that unity, and connected us with a community of nations. We have had our divisive moments, but we remain united in our basic principles of fairness, of kindness, of a duty to each other, to our nation, and to all of humanity. We need our traditions to remind us of the importance of that unity, and once a year we remember those who willingly sacrificed so much to ensure that our people remain free. We owe a debt of gratitude and remembrance to those who made their sacrifice, and those who continue to serve and sacrifice. And that debt will never, ever be paid in full.

Thank you CBC, for broadcasting the national Remembrance Day celebration on the internet. Thank you to all those who organised, who recorded,and who participated in all of the Remembrance Day celebrations across the entire Dominion. Thank you to those who continue to serve in various missions across the globe. And thank you to all who served and sacrificed so much so that we can enjoy our freedom. May this truly Canadian tradition continue to bring us together as one people for as long as Canada stands as a nation.

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About jackwildeadventures

I am a Biologist, a Naturalist, and a Sea Kayak Guide. I live in a beach town on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, with my lovely wife, Lorena.

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