I posted this about a year ago …
… it’s still the right image.
Notwithstanding the efforts of some groups, some agencies and many individuals, Remembrance Day remains about remembering those, and only those, who made the supreme sacrifice in battle. It’s not about veterans, it’s not about serving military folks, it’s not about politicians or priests and rabbis and other assorted shamans, and it’s not about historians and journalists or children’s choirs … it’s about our war dead, the vast majority of whom are buried in “some corner of a foreign field” or who, like my own father, have no known grave at all.
I will be at the National War Memorial today to think about my own father and about more than 100,000 others, some of whom I knew, who died on so many battlefields and in our lost ships. I will wear my medals, because it’s what tradition says we do, but on my regimental blazer, under my coat … no one needs to see them, no one needs to care if I am a veteran; it’s not about me or any other veterans; it’s all about, only about those who never came home, those who never got to be “veterans.”
I will think about them and but I will not stay long … I will not listen to the prayers, only to the sound of the guns, fired in salute, and to the lament, played by a lone piper. During the two minutes silence I will think hard about Laurence Binyon’s lines in ‘For the Fallen,’ a poem he wrote in 1914:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
I will also think about two things I see, here in Ottawa, on my morning walks. First I pass under the Memorial Arch and I read the lines inscribed on it …
… that bit from Ecclesiasticus begins “Let us now praise famous men …” but a little past that, just a few minutes away, I see this statue …
… which is meant to remind us that whatsoever we do to the least amongst us we do, also, to everyone else. I will recall that while some “famous men” were killed in our wars, our dead are, for the most part, drawn from “the least of these my brethren” ~ very ordinary men and women, from very ordinary families, and so the “famous men” we honour on Remembrance Day, those who are still ” honoured in their generations and [who] were the gory of their times” were, by and large, “the least” among us, and they are all my brothers and sisters … except for one: he was the father I never knew.