Each year, the faces of the veterans that gather round cenotaphs for Remembrance Day seem a little older and fewer in number as the world wars of the 20th century recede into the past.
For many young people, the stories of those wars must seem like ancient history; like vinyl records, just too old to mean much for modern life. The numbers of old veterans dwindle, and with each one, a story is lost, a connection to the past is undone.
Unfortunately, war and strife does not pass away. Unlike H.G. Wells’ famous catchphrase describing the First World War, there is no such thing as a “war to end all wars.” By some estimates, war has claimed the lives of 50 million people since peace was declared in 1945, at the end of the Second World War.
War still fills our headlines on a daily basis and the list of Canada’s war dead grows year by year, victims of both peacekeeping actions and wars. And while the faces of the old veterans may become memories, they are once again being replaced, now by those who have served the cause of freedom in Afghanistan.
And the names of their comrades are being added to scrolls of the dead; the war in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 160 Canadian soldiers since we became involved in 2002.
Remembrance Day gives us the opportunity to pay tribute to all those men and women, past and present, living and dead, who have given of themselves to not only protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy, but also to shield many of the world’s peoples from those who would take their freedom.
Today, as we join with those in similar gatherings across the country, let us remember that though memories of past wars may dim, the battle for peace and freedom is still being fought.
“Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.” – In Flanders Fields, John McRae