Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bound by Remembrance

In Canada, 2005 has been declared the Year of the Veteran. Personally I wanted to do something to commemorate this, so earlier this year I decided to join the Royal Canadian Legion. It is something I was asked to do a long time ago.

When I was a young soldier the only real exposure I had to the older veterans was Remembrance Day. Then, with an air of distant ceremonial duty, we would parade with them, guard their cenotaph, toast them and listen to their stories. Often, expressing fervent hope, they would implore us to consider joining the Legion; concerned that, with their membership dwindling, the Legion would one day no longer exist.

We were too young to understand why this was important to them and too proud to think about why it should be important to us. We didn’t feel like there was a lot that we shared in common with the "old guard" - after all we were young, brave, strong, and concerned with a much more modern warfare then that of the World Wars or even Korea. We were training to protect freedom in a different world that, for the most part, didn’t actually need protecting anymore. And we were pretty sure we were too tough to hang around with old people.

We were naive and arrogant; perhaps both the biggest and most common sins of youth, but often the most hurtful and neglectful.

We neglected to see that the reason the world didn’t need protecting anymore was their sacrifices. We neglected to attribute the pride we held in our own units to the battle honours bestowed a lifetime ago on a battlefield far away. We neglected to recognize their desire to count us amongst their numbers as their pride in us. We neglected to acknowledge that we all lived in a world that no "outsider" could understand, and that that’s supposed to count for something. We neglected to honour the bonds that tie us all together.

Its years ago now since I carried an automatic rifle and wore my flag on my shoulder; years since I shared that unique kind of camaraderie with a different kind of family; years since I lived and breathed an all consuming sense of duty; and a lifetime since I imagined that my world was not safe.

Actually, thanks to the personal sacrifices and decisions made by our Veterans, I have never lived in a world where I feared for my personal or national security, freedom or identity. That freedom is what defines us today as a people, and our Veteran's deserve to have us to carry on their legacy, forever. "To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high."

We are bound by Remembrance.

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