… and in the setting of the sun we will remember them…
Our images of war are based on stock pictures in our head because we have no reality. For each war we can probably pull up one or two images and the story to go with it. I suspect the reality of war is incredibly different from the just the visual of war along with a brief 3 minute sound bite. Which itself is a modern invention compared to war which is as old as man.
The best analogy that I can think of is what life is like in an operating room. The one or two minutes you watch on a show like ER or Grey’s Anatomy when they are in the operating room have no basis in reality. Something crazy happens and it’s instantly fixed by one person. Realistically it would be a huge team effort but that is never shown. So our “stock” images of the operating room are eschewed. The picture below has about 5 things that aren’t reality which medical people would point out.
The only way to really do that is
- Enlist and hit the front lines
- Talk to a veteran
- Become a journalist on the front lines
So I’ve opted for option two. I personally have never met the man but I’ve known of him for a while. I’ve worked with his sister-in-law for years and crossed paths with his wife/her sister in my volunteer life. I remember him being posted overseas and how relieved they were when he returned home. I’m incredibly grateful that he has allowed me to ask him some questions to get a better sense of how life was in combat and how it is now back in Canada. How else can we even begin the reality of what our service men and women and veterans alongside their families have gone through if we don’t ask questions and acknowledge their reality?
Apparently he gives interviews regularly and so was probably less nervous than I. Now the challenge is to translate my thoughts into words that do justice to his (and other’s) life of service. I will struggle to be as articulate as possible and try to remember that the story isn’t about how my writing feels but rather what the story says.
There was much left unsaid. There are, as with most veterans, areas that it is easier not to share. Perhaps it is because we (the civilians) can’t grasp the realities or perhaps it is partly because speaking of it brings it all back to life or perhaps it is because we don’t speak the lingo to understand the nuances. Likely it is a combination off all those factors.
A strong family background of service influenced his upbringing. Stories of his maternal grandfather fighting at the Somme and Vimy Ridge. His father an Air Force Veteran in the Korean era. His service story began in 91 and included a tour of peace keeping in Croatia followed by a tour of duty in Bosnia and one in Afghanistan. He said that for every year of duty it takes him approximately a year out of the zone to return to a base line “normal”. There are those that he served with that never find that line again upon returning home and that is hard. Perhaps the hardest. The adrenalin of combat and the “routine” of the front line always have that underlying unknown factor. There will probably be no precursor knowledge to the incoming mortar attack that could take your life or limb.
It makes the leaving home the most difficult aspect of serving. Always parting and never knowing. So much so that 8 years after his return from duty the joy of falling asleep side by side at night has never diminished. Those years apart are fraught with anxieties on both ends and it must take special partnerships to withstand those trials and carve out a life during and after. The experience changes your life and so you don’t return home the same man you went as. But as each person deals with these changes with their own perspective and coping mechanisms.
When asked what we could do to support our veterans he asked that we acknowledge their contribution. The deep essence of it is that we ask the questions and truly listen to the answers. That if we can’t comprehend the lingo we do our research to have a base understanding. That’s the individual responsibility of each of us. Those polished boots
A significant contribution that we can make is to acknowledge that it is Remembrance Day not a holiday. That it is a time to reflect on those that have given a part or all for our country. It’s not a day to add to a long weekend to make a shopping trip but rather a time to reflect that we are blessed that others will give of themselves on our behalf. Think about their lack of sleep, the unwavering dedication, the hours alone away from loved ones, the miles marched, and the time spent taken to defend us deserves our up most respect.
So tomorrow PLEASE pause and reflect. Thank a veteran.
11 Days — 11 Stories
Acts of Remembrance