Remembrance Day 2006

Remember? That is so hard to do when even I was not born when it was first decided there should be a day set aside to let the people of the world remember that there had been a World War, and to try to make certain IT NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN. The day chosen was the eleventh of November at the eleventh day and at the eleventh hour, which was the time when that war ended in Europe. That was in 1918, and it is so hard to visualize anything when you weren?t yet born.

In my case I had to wait until 1923 to make my appearance on this planet, and had to wait a few more years before the next World War arrived in September of 1939. As a kid growing up in Vancouver, and having been aware of The Depression in Canada where finding jobs anywhere for anyone was difficult, trying to understand what Remembrance Day meant, just did not register. I had just started High School, and while my mother had lost a brother in that war, and had another brother who had been in that war too, and while we did wear poppies and stand in the classroom for two minutes silence on the eleventh of November, few of us had any understanding of what was happening in Europe, except for a buddy of mine who stated bluntly that, ?There is no way I am going to war!?

But then, I was just sixteen, and had never even worried about the hormones raging in my body at that time, let alone going to a war somewhere. Pretty naive eh? Just thought you should know the state of my, ?Hah hah mind!?

Graduated in 1941 and had to find work somewhere. By this time the war in Europe was very intense, and the news was grim. I had a chance to get in the airforce as a ground crew mechanic (after receiving basic training in Vancouver). Got shipped to Halifax after further training and found there were 22 mechanics waiting to fix two Lysander?s. After sweeping hangar floors for a couple of months, I wanted to do more, and asked to be remustered. Having had my nose broken and being a mouth breather I was surprised to find that I was accepted for pilot training, and life became more interesting.

Completed all the courses and was shipped to England with pilot?s wings and sergeant stripes.

Ended up on 419 squadron and flew over Europe. Ended up flying the first Canadian built Lancaster bombers to fly into battle. Did a tour of operations successfully and, after instructing for several months, agreed to fly on a second tour. While waiting for the longer range Lincoln aircraft to arrive, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed and that World War ended. By this time I was 22 and ended up in university looking for a way into civilian life once more.

Now, what does Remembrance Day mean to me? After being reunited with my family, a brother having served in the army, another having served in the navy, a sister who had married a soldier, and a younger sister and brother who were then just old enough to join the military services, and my mother who had nursed after my dad had died, my thoughts were that we were so very fortunate to all be alive and well when so many others had died horribly! Indeed, while I was flying on operations, and mother was hearing of daily losses in the air, she was waiting to hear if I was one of the casualties, while I was blissfully unaware of her concerns. One of the joys of being young, AND THOUGHTLESS!

So, what will you be remembering? For so many today it will be for young soldiers fighting in another country for causes they believe in. Many who will be thought as heroes because they are willing to risk their lives for others. According to most dictionaries the definitions are explained as being in combat with an enemy and being heroic. However I like one definition which says, ?hero: a person admired for superior qualities and achievements?. No mention of war, no mention of combat, and nothing of death and destruction. Yes, when my rear gunner went to a pub in England and ordered eight glasses of beer to remember a crew that had been shot down, which included the friend he had who did receive the highest order of valour, the Victoria Cross, when he died in order to save the rear gunner trapped in his turret in the rear of the plane, who lived and remembered how he had escaped and why. Yes, that dead airman met all the criteria the dictionary called for and even if the award went to him posthumously, he earned the Victoria Cross.

You can thank all those who gave their lives that we might live in this wonderful place we call Canada by dying that we might have the privilege of living here. Nothing wrong with that. But let us not forget so many others that, by their achievements too, which have given us the best medical services in the world, the opportunity to live in Peace with our neighbours on this planet through the evolution of the United Nations, and so many wonderful inventions not even imagined fifty years ago. They to are heroes and we should remember all of them for their superior qualities and achievements.