Editor: On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, the guns fell silent in what was known then as the Great War. One year later in the Commonwealth, the first Remembrance Day was observed. Since then, Canadians have gathered to observe two minutes of silence and remember.
I am a veteran of the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. I still find it strange at the age of 31 to call myself a veteran, but I am one none the less.
I don’t use Remembrance Day to remember, because I remember every day. Seeing the scars war leaves behind stays with you forever. I could not forget even if I tried. What I do on Remembrance Day is reflect on what has brought us to this point, and the true human cost of our freedoms.
In every war, civilians die or are wounded, displaced, starved, abused, or used as human shields. When bombs are dropped on a city they are not selective about whom they kill. When mines are laid, the mine does not care who steps on it and when a bullet is fired, it does not avoid the innocent.
In all the wars we fight, the innocent die. It is a sad unfortunate fact of war and despite the best efforts of soldiers, it is a fact that will always be with us. I reflect on these often-forgotten casualties, and I make a point to remind people I talk to about their sacrifice.
What haunts me is the children I saw during my time in Bosnia. Their faces were full of innocence and life, and they were struggling to make sense of the senseless destruction around them.
The children are the real victims of war. They can’t understand the geo-politics, the prejudice, the hate, or any other reason humans kill each other. All they know is their world becomes a dark scary place full of danger they could not possibly understand. When I look at my sons, I am so grateful for the country I live in and can raise my boys to appreciate.
We as Canadians don’t understand what it is like to live in a place where you cannot walk on the grass for fear of losing your foot or life to a land mine. We never worry about rival warlords, snipers, bombs, roadblocks, checkpoints, or firefights outside our doorsteps. We are in no danger of being ethnically cleansed. Last time I checked, our government wasn’t killing protesters.
It is a select few of the population in whom the warrior spirit burns hot enough to swear an oath, put on a uniform and stand a post. These men and women stand on guard for thee 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
They stand ready to fight on your behalf and lay down their own life to protect you and your freedoms. On Remembrance Day, thank a veteran and a soldier — but do not take freedom for granted and always be thankful you live in a free, safe country.
I take a moment during those two minutes to silently thank the warriors who came before me and those who come after me, and make a yearly pledge to never forget what I saw. I also pledge to always hold true in my heart what it means to be a soldier.