Sunday, November 11, 2012 is Remembrance Day. Of course, the date comes from the signing of the Armistice at the end of the first World War – the ‘War to End All Wars.’ Sadly, it didn’t live up to expectations. Wars are still happening. People are still suffering and dying.
I can’t always make it to the service at the Cenotaph in Elora, but I always stop, no matter where I am, to observe the two minutes of silence at 11 am. I have been driving down the road, and have pulled over. It’s heartening to see that others do the same.
How wonderful it would be if that treaty in 1918 had ended all wars. Who would still be with us, if we stopped fighting each other? What things would be different in this world?
I have an old notebook that belonged to my grandfather. He recorded different things in it, such as the day he enlisted for WWI, contact information for friends and family, short forms that he needed to know for his job, Morse code, and items of interest. There was also a short diary. When I read it, I often saw notations of men dying, of non-stop rain, of visiting graves of dead friends, and of losing friends to flu epidemics. This diary selection doesn’t include going to the front. It was his early experience from enlistment in London, Ontario to training at Witley Camp in England. It seems that many brave soldiers didn’t make it to England, or to the front.
Today, as we sit, snug in our homes in Elora, we can use our computers to take care of every detail necessary for a lovely vacation in France. How lovely was Vimy Ridge on October 26th, 1916 when my great uncle and his fellow soldiers breathed their last? In the beginning, they thought they would be back home in a couple of months. So many didn’t come back at all.
What was it like to live in those war-torn areas, watching your hopes and dreams being blown to bits? How horrible it must have been to be frightened and hungry, day after day. For some survivors, the hurt never goes away. The enemy is always the enemy, and the war continues, forever, in their hearts. The pain they feel must be incredibly intense.
For me, Remembrance Day in Elora, is not just for those who left the farm in Pilkington, or a job at a store in Elora. It’s not just about the families who cried when the sad telegram came to tell them that a son was never coming home. It’s about saying thank you to those who fought, and still fight, for peace.
Families are still living in fear. Mothers are still getting the letters. Canadians are still going off to war. There are still many places on this earth that we can’t visit, because they are too dangerous.
We are safe in Elora, because of the efforts of people that we will never be able to thank. We have been fortunate enough to grow up in an environment where we can feel safe. An environment where a plane overhead is just a plane. It won’t cause us any harm. Nobody in our home will be taken away in the middle of the night, never to return. We can safely walk to the post office for the mail or to the store for our groceries.
We have a constitution that guarantees our rights and freedom under Canadian law, but so many in this world still don’t have what we have. Thank you to the soldiers who leave this safe county to fight for the rights and freedoms of others. One day, your efforts will be rewarded, and we will all feel free and at peace.
The Remembrance Day service in Elora is at the Cenotaph on MacDonald Square. The service is scheduled for 11, but you will want to be there earlier to avoid disturbing the two minutes of silence.