I remember my Uncle, Edmund Stanley Novak who was conscripted and fought for Canada in W.W. II as a member of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. Uncle Ed was involved in the liberation of Holland and took grenade shrapnel to his lower leg on April 7, 1945 -- one month and one day before V.E. Day. The grenade landed inches away which actually saved his life since his buddy who was next to him took the shrapnel in the chest and was instantly killed. Uncle Ed convalesced in hospital for 2 years after as a result. Uncle Ed died in 2003 and I was thrilled that the last time I saw him, which was the day of my eldest son's Baptism, I was able to use the internet to find duty logs from his regiment on the day he was wounded. While he remembered much about the day he also had forgotten a lot as well and he always wished he could learn more . He died unexpectedly 7 weeks after I supplied him with that information.
I remember my only sibling, my younger brother Jeff. While Jeff has never been involved in combat, he served over 10 years in Canada's military -- eventually serving as an officer in the Navy. I remember how he became a Navy Diver and was the head diver on the HMCS Ville Du Quebec until he was transferred to a supply ship for NATO duties. 10 days after his transfer from the V.D.Q. Swissair Flight 111 crashed into the Atlantic near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia and his former ship was one of the first to arrive at the crash site. My brother told me how the divers who used to be under his command had to jump into the water and pull up body parts and children's toys and how some of them still suffer from the resultant unexpected trauma. There is no training, he said, that can prepare you for that.
I remember the first time I stood on a Highway Bridge on the 4th of July in 2007 and paid my respects to six Canadians that died and were being repatriated home along the soon to be named Highway of Heroes. I also can remember the numerous times since that I have stood to show my respects on the same bridge. I remember how there were perhaps 10 people on the bridge the first time I stood and possibly 80 people the last time I stood a few months ago.
I remember that In Flanders Fields the Poppies blow, between the crosses row on row.
I remember how silent and still it felt when I stood in front of the National War Memorial in Ottawa on a typical Wednesday evening in June, 2008. For all the traffic that was whizzing by, I couldn't hear it for I was entranced by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and all that it represents.
I remember that sadly, we Canadians tend to forget that freedom and democracy in the manner that we are privileged to live by is not always admired. For some it is reviled and to protect the democracy we take for granted, there are those who will lay down their lives to defend it.
I will remember to say thank you to any veteran or soldier I meet--not just on Remembrance Day but on any day, and at any time.
I remember and I never forget how blessed I am to live in a country where freedom is a given, democracy is engrained and opportunity is only bound by any personal limitations set upon one's own self.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, this is what I will remember.
What about you?