The 24th Ottawa War Memorial
On November 11, 2010, shortly before 11 a.m., I stood alone at the cenotaph near my countryside artist studio. Thousands of miles away, my first-born son was stationed in a FOB, i.e. a forward operating base in Afghanistan. He had been gone for months, and still had a couple of months yet to serve in his extended tour.
I have always observed Remembrance Day, but never gave it deep thought. In school, I liked to draw poppies and was often the one chosen to recite "In Flanders Field" at assembly. I appreciated that my children's elementary schools put great effort into their Remembrance Day ceremonies, and sometimes I helped. But other than that?
Well, my age is showing. When I was born, in the dawn before internet and satellite tv, heck, colour tv would have been good, anecdotes about any war were ancient history to me. You might as well have been talking about ancient Egyptians (except they were cooler).
When I was an older teenager, my mom revealed to me, like a guilty secret, instead of the sad story it was, that she had been married before. Her husband, who she had adored, had been killed in WW2 and was buried somewhere in France. Even though this was obviously a pivotal event in my mother's life, my teenage brain saw this as a tragic, romantic tale of love, not a story about war. Still, my mom was old , and this was all before my time, so even that story got filed right along those of my WW1 & WW2 veteran family members.
But oh, what a difference 30 years and a truckload of hindsight makes.
My children are now at the age that my grandparents, parents, and their siblings were when they had their wartime experiences. I can better imagine my predecessors as young people, now that I have a houseful of them myself. Much easier now to imagine them enlisting for idealistic adventure. Much sadder to imagine the danger, loneliness, sorrow, exhaustion, terror, and trauma they faced thousands of miles from home.
Now the stories make more sense. Stories of obedience, endurance and perseverance, and of camaraderie, compassion, and bravery. And if they were lucky to come home, and not all my family members were, they brought secrets, war wounds and, sometimes, a war bride.
Oh, WW1, WW2, Afghanistan.
That is what I thought of as I stood, now joined by a few others, at that cenotaph that day. I snapped a photo of the cenotaph with my phone, e-mailed the pic to my son telling him I loved him with all my heart, and that the good folk at the cenotaph wished him well.
To my amazement, he answered me right back.
War is the blackest foolishness, but iPhones, black or white, are mighty handy in wartime.
If you would like to send a Christmas wish to those military still serving overseas, click http://www.sears.ca/custom-content/operation-wish?extid=050211_ca_Vanity_EN_Unknown_Operationwish