For the first eight Remembrance Days of my life, we were on the Parade Square regardless of the weather - most of the time in the wind and snow of some Canadian Army Base. There was "Taps" and cannon fire and 21 gun salutes along with the laying of wreaths. Lots of soldiers - lots of marching and plenty of sorrow amongst the parents and grandparents. Pretty standard Canadian tradition - and like most kids I really did not "get it."
Before I was born - my dad was "in Korea." He never talked about it. It got referenced occasionally in relation to other things.. by my brothers and by my Mom.. but none of them ever talked about it. I knew he was there with the Canadian Army - but it had no meaning to me. I knew we had some incredibly breakable porcelain dishes that came back from "when your Dad was in Korea" and some satin oriental pyjamas and a set of Ivory chopsticks.
Ten years ago I got an appreciation of what it meant for my family and the families of other soldiers to have someone in their family away in war - or conflict or whatever word is applied. As my mother was dying, it was her fellow army wives who were there for her. The cards came regularly. The letters and the calls too. I was in awe that these women many of whom she would not have seen in years - some decades rallied to be there for one of their "sisters" in time of need. I asked my Mom about it - and she said there was a bond among those that were at home alone - and lived with the reality of what that meant on a daily basis - "like when Dad was in Korea." I realized that in my mind, my Dad was in Korea for ... oh.. I don't know.. maybe 2 weeks. I guess I thought since no one ever talked about it - it must not have been a very big deal - so I asked "How long was he there for?" and was absolutely stunned to hear the answer: "444 days, " she said.
For 444 days my Mom was a single parent to my 3 older brothers. She lived in fear that any day could bring word that he was not coming home. My brothers had no Dad to play ball with, to join them at dinner or around the TV for Hockey Night in Canada. No one to shovel the driveway, fix the car, carve the roast or back her up on parenting. I was in awe at the sacrifice so silently given.
My oldest brother tells me that Dad was never the same after he came home. His time in Korea changed him. I really don't know what that means - other than it changes my perspective from "it must not have been a big deal because no one ever talks about it".. to "Holy Crap- It must have been a BIG deal" to be kept so silent for so long.
Twelve years ago this November my Dad passed away. Strangely enough, his medical records mysteriously disappeared from his doctor's office. (As did those of the brother of a friend of ours who also served in Korea.) Ten years ago this November my Mom passed away.
With their loss - and because of the perspective of what I have learned it took for them to be a Military family - I now "get" Remembrance Day. I feel the sorrow - the loss - the desolation and the fear of war. I grieve for the families of men and women lost, and for those whose lives will be forever changed by the time they serve away from their loved ones.
Peace starts from within. My wish for you this day - is that you have found a moment to create peace in your world.
A profound thank you to all of those who have given so much for the freedom we enjoy so care-freely.
Brenda Ellis is with Century 21 Executives Realty in Vernon, BC.