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May We Always Remember, Never Forget

Posted on November 08, 2011 @ 4:40 PM in Uncategorized

Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

In 1970, Canadian folk singer, Joni Mitchell, wrote those lyrics to her environmental protest song, Big Yellow Taxi.

This week, as Canadians prepare to observe Remembrance Day on November 11, her words could also apply to freedom.

The veterans we honour this week fought their battles so far away that their sacrifices often fade into the mists of time, forgotten and unappreciated. Unlike Europeans’, our daily lives don’t include stark reminders of World War II.

Few of us have family members still living who were directly touched by the Holocaust.

We don’t walk past bombed-out ruins on our way to school, see the deeply scarred earth where battles were fought or recall being separated from our siblings and parents when we were kids.

Until the events of September 11, 2001, we North Americans had never experienced acts of war on our home soil. At least, not in our lifetimes.

On November 11, 2001, I happened to be in Ottawa, our nation’s capital. It was a day I’ll never forget.

Parliament Hill was thronged with people, despite the very cold but sunny day. Reports estimated our number at over 100,000. I’d never been in a crowd that large, equal to the population of a whole city.

I happened to be standing directly opposite then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson who were there to review the parade of active and retired veterans who would march along the pathway between us.

First came the cute little Cubs and Brownies, followed by the older Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Next were the Air Cadets. Then members of the reserve and active military.

Last but not least, it was their turn. The veterans.

The abler-bodied among them marched tall and proud past the dignitaries. Others walked, many with the aid of a cane or a friend. Some were pushed in wheel chairs, bundled up in blankets against the chill.

Then the most amazing thing happened.

One by one, softly at first and building to an echoing crescendo, people started saying “thank you” and “merci” to the veterans as they walked by. Nothing else.

Simple words called out in heartfelt gratitude for the peace, freedom and way of life we’d all taken for granted.

Silent tears flowed down the faces of the vets, washing away the pain of their tremendous sacrifices at long last recognized and fully appreciated. Perhaps only now fully understood in the wake of 9/11.

We owe them our gratitude. We owe them for the freedom we enjoy today. We owe them our lives.

Thank you. Merci.

Lest we forget.

Please share your thoughts, remembrances or thanks.
Will you observe a minute of silence at 11am on 11/11?

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