Take up our quarrel with the foe; to you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae, In Flanders Fields
There’s many a tear that comes to the eye as we watch our veterans gathering around cenotaphs on Remembrance Day, their faces lined with age and the history they have experienced.
It’s a romantic picture, but there are younger faces too, veterans of the many wars and peacekeeping actions since the Second World War came to an end 72 years ago; veterans of Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rwanda and so many more places Canadian Forces have ventured in support of our allies or in hopes of saving lives.
John Babcock, Canada’s last veteran of the First World War, died in 2010 at the age of 109. And there are fewer Second World War veterans to honour every year.
But until humanity manages to find a way to bring the horror of war to an end once and for all, there will always be more veterans, and all deserving of the same respect and honour for their choice to put themselves in harm’s way.
For Remembrance Day isn’t a celebration of war, but a time to remember the courage and sacrifice of those who chose to fight for a higher purpose. The size of the conflict or how many movies have been made about it isn’t important. It’s the people: all those who fell giving their lives for others, and those who returned.
So as you spend those two minutes in silence Saturday, spare a thought for those who continue to make the choice to serve.
Someday, maybe there will be no more names to add to the cenotaph. But that doesn’t mean there should ever be an end to Remembrance Day; we should never let ourselves forget these men and women who gave their lives so that others could live.