A reflection on Remembrance Day

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Before this past World Series, war seemed as recent as a Chicago Cubs championship season. That is to say, longer than many lives have been lived. 

Unlike baseball, war isn’t a choice. It is thrust upon people who have no choice but to deal with it. It was brought upon Canadians, and people from all over the world, to put themselves into a position that would likely have them make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of their country. Something many millennials have not remembered to remember. Something that may have been lost over the years is joy. 

The celebration of the signing of armistice, the dark and terrifying future that could-have-been under the rule of some bad people, and the freedoms we use to express ourselves on a daily basis are just a few of the things we should be smiling about when we bow our heads on November 11.

“It’s not just to remember the dead. There is a lot of happiness that people came back who went over there and did five years. They came back, and there is happiness in that,” said 86 year-old Stan McGowen, who joined the Royal Air Force before he was 20.

McGowen was sitting at a table with another man, Eddie Cormier, who looked roughly half his age. Cormier’s grandfather and his father in law were involved with WW2, which helped him make a decision to join the Armed Forces.

Both Cormier and McGowen see their time with the Canadian Army as time well spent, and encourage young people of today to give it some thought. They say having a position with the army would help young adults of today to understand why respect is so necessary to have for veterans past and present. 

“I think a lot of young people should join the Canadian Armed Forces. It’s a way of getting out of a situation you might be in. There’s jobs with pensions, there are fields you can go into without going into actual combat,” said Cormier.

“I was in the Royal Air Force but I wasn’t in conflict,” said McGowen, “It was good for me. The discipline was good, I learned a trade.” Cormier added: “You can get an education.”

Joining the army is a scary thought. It is a thought in which the scariness is enhanced with every passing Remembrance Day ceremony. Joining the army is also a thought that is not prevalent in Canadians like it was in the past, considering the new more-removed positions this country is taking in worldwide conflicts.

Linda Hollyoake, the Poppy Chair for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 82, said she is frustrated and confused about the lack of participation from the younger population. 

“A lot of the younger generation these days are, as we lightly refer to as the generation of entitlement,” said Hollyoake, “The ‘I’m 16 where is my new car?’ instead of ‘I guess if I want a car I better get a job.’”
Hollyoake spoke to the relevance of the Legions for today but also to the relevance of the military: “The other thing that a lot of people often forget is that we do still have veterans. There are people serving in Afghanistan, and Iran and all over the world doings peacekeeping.”

Whether it is the school system or household life, Hollyoake says that at the Port Credit Legion they are trying to reinvigorate a respect among the youth. 

“One of the things we are blessed with out here at this Legion is that we happen to have the 845 Avro Arrow Cadets. A lot of them go on to military careers,” said Hollyoake, “One of the wonderful things about being around them is the respect that they show for elders and whatnot. Everything is ‘yes sir, no sir, thank you,’ very, very respectful.”

Regardless of age or circumstances, the bare minimum asked of Canadians is to show respect. A Poppy is a pretty simple sentiment, and so is attending a 45-minute ceremony. 

Let’s collectively hope that wars like the ones we refuse to forget never resurface. Let’s collectively remember the costs of war to avoid paying for it again. 

Wear a poppy as a promise of peace.