Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest we forget

I never used to cry at Remembrance Day ceremonies.

But now, I see my parents reflected in the craggy faces of an ever-dwindling number of elderly WWII veterans who proudly pin on their medals and don their faded armed forces caps on November 11th each year.

Part of the Greatest Generation, they and their contemporaries grew up during the hardship of the Great Depression and then, as young adults, they flocked to conscription offices across the Commonwealth to join up. Their reasons were as varied as they were: to serve King and Country; to find adventure; to escape the boredom of rural farm life; to prove themselves; to see something of the world; and so on and so on.

My dad joined the Alouette Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force and shipped off to England from historic Pier 21 in Halifax. He served in the UK and in North Africa and, yes, he found adventure along the way, he saw something of the world, he was awarded several medals, he served King and Country, and he learned to enjoy a good cigar.

My mom joined the Barbados Volunteer Force and, after a whirlwind week in New York City where they joined up with other units, set sail for England on the Queen Mary with Glen Miller and his orchestra. She served in the Royal Corps of Signals at various locations throughout England and, yes, she found adventure along the way, saw something of the world, and locked her Sergeant Major in the washroom on VE Day to go out and celebrate.

Soon there will be no more WWII veterans – most are in their mid to late 80’s if not older. For many years, it was difficult for me to identify with ageing seniors until I realized that – like me – they too had been young once, they had loved and laughed, danced and had fun adventures with friends. Suddenly I understood that their youth had not been lived in a stiff, black & white world – that was just the lens through which we saw them.

In turn, our children and grandchildren will probably not see us as we see ourselves until they’re grown adults with children of their own. That is the way of the world. When we’re young we’re busy finding adventure; escaping the boredom of rural life; proving ourselves; seeing something of the world; etc.

But hopefully we can take a little time to listen to stories of adventure and hardship, to look at photos of faraway cities and battlefields, to learn the difficult lessons from past discriminations and hatred, and respect those who have – and continue – to risk their lives for any number of various reasons.

Lest we forget.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

A lovely post to remember your parents. It's stories like this that make me so passionate about genealogy. There are so MANY stories of courage, bravery and heroism that I don't want to be lost to the years.