Sunday, November 11, 2012
Remembrance Day and St. James Church, 2012
Dad served in the RCAF during WWII. I remember his blue uniform as a child. Remembrance Day was important to him. He loved the Ottawa Air Museum where in later years he liked stand by the Lancaster Bomber and remember . Occasionally he mentioned friends who didn't come back. I'm reading GAS! The Battle for Ypres, 1915 by James L. McWilliams and R. James Steel, a well written, well researched, moving history indeed. I was honoured to have treated a Vimy Ridge survivor in my first year of country general practice. He was a very intelligent elderly gentleman who I saw for lung disease. He'd been only a little scathed by gas attacks. On his visits though he'd share stories of those long past days when his Ross Rifle jammed. "It wasn't so bad though because I could pick up an Enfield off one of the many fallen Brits around us." Today is Remembrance Day. My friend told me his grandfather rode in the Canadian Cavalry in WWI telling him he figured he survived because on a horse he was above the height everyone was shooting at. I was reminded of the brilliant novel, Soldier of the Horse, by Robert Mackie based on the stories his family told of the 'Great War'. Our friends' son was in Kundahar, Afghanistan. She was sharing this summer a mother's pride in his service, achievements and advancement. When he was over there, t was a hard time for him and for those who loved him. She admired his courage and his sense of duty. So many young people lack purpose or meaning. I see the drug addicts and alcoholics whose lives of pleasure and deceit are so shallow in comparison with the friends I've known who understood the truth and meaning of service and altruism in contrast to the utter narcissism of the "party scene". Over the years I've treated Vets from all the wars of the 20ths and 21st century. Men have told me over and over of the horrors they encountered in Europe, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cypress, South America, Central America, Africa. Some volunteered. Some were conscripted. A white South Afrikaner told me "I killed them in the night when they were trying to kill my mother and father asleep upstairs." "Kill or be killed", was the law of the jungle for many and war was a return to the very jungle we all came from. Thanks to our Canadian soldiers, the Brits, NATO, and especially the American soldiers I've known a life time of relative safety and civilization for which I'm truly thankful. All the refugees I've seen in my office remind me how lucky we are to be in Canada with the governments we have had and their concern for defence. For so many who have not faced those who want your life and all you possess because they believe their might entitles them to it ,they probably don't understand what all the unsung heroes of Remembrance Day talk is about. It is the very success of the Canadian soldiers that we don't know what it is that they have done for us. That said, I can also say the Canadian media, especially CBC, has been utterly nauseating in it's coverage of Canada's military service overseas these last years. Thanks to the ignorance of the Canadian media the average Canadian doesn't even know where the Canadians have been deployed and what their part has been around the world in countless peacekeeping actions.I only learn from the men and women themselves who tell me what the media fails to report. Thankfully there is Remembrance Day each year. Poppies go on sale. I remember the poem Flanders Fields written by a doctor sleepless after days and nights on the front serving. I was thankful for the genius writing of Kevin Patterson, Canadian doctor, whose book "Outside the Wire" remains a classic of the Afghanistan war telling the story of that conflict in the words of the participants. At church today I was grateful to catch the end of Father Mark Greenaway Robbins sermon of thanks this important day. Tom, Gilbert and I were glad to be there for Remembrance Day. It was a blessing to join with the choir and congregation singing "Our God Our Help in Ages Past, remembering all the years of church with my now departed father and mother as we sang this very hymn in days gone past. Dad and Mom met during WWII, were married for 60 years, 'till death do us part'. Dad was proud of his service in the RCAF. I was proud of my Dad. Today I'm thankful for all the soldiers who have served so that we can know peace. It was good too to see AJ and 3 week old Alex, so full of promise in his new life. After church we congregated downstairs for conversation, coffee and cookies. Gilbert visited with the other dog that had come to church that day.