Those who were there gone, we remember

It is a sobering thought as we approach Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 that this year is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

Even more sobering is the realization that there are now no living veterans from this benchmark in our history.

Nobody remains who can tell the first-hand stories about what it was like in the trenches, when calvary charges were still used.

So many of these histories are now lost to us forever. The individual recollections from those who were there, those who came home without their friends, are lost to time.

There is nobody, now to go to the cenotaphs and truly remember the individuals whose names are carved there under 1914-1918.

Even if a broad sketch of character remains, the details are likely gone – what beer did they like best? What was their favourite song? Which movie star set their heart aflutter?

Gone too is their day-to-day wartime life. All that is left of the experiences of many of these soldiers is what they may have told loved ones of their time overseas. But many of them didn’t like to talk about it at all.

War is not something that most of us would want to remember – especially not the ugly, bloody reality of it.

But remember we must. Already we are too prone to forget, and suffer from all of the ills that forgetting brings, such as more wars, and more loss.

That’s what Remembrance Day is all about.

We honour the dead who fought for us, as they fought with the goal that we would not have to follow in their footsteps onto the battlefield.

They fought so that we could have peace and freedom.

They fought against powers whose goal was literally world domination.

It sounds like something out of a movie based on a comic book, but it was reality.

It is true that we have not fought a war on such a scale since the Second World War. The numbers tell the tale.

In the First World War, 628,736 Canadians served in the armed forces, 66,573 (including 175 merchant seamen) died and 138,166 were wounded.

In the Second World War, 1,031,902 Canadian men and women served, 44,927 (including

1,146 merchant seamen) were killed and 53,145 were wounded.

We must continue to remember, even if it is a pale, second-hand shade, so that we never have to tally such numbers of dead and wounded again.

So observe that moment of silence, even if you can’t make it to a Remembrance Day service, and know how lucky we are, recognize how grateful we should be, and pledge to continue to be vigilant against the possibility of global conflict in the future.

The price was too high. We honour the fallen by avoiding having to ever pay it again.

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