Though you wonít read this until Thursday (or perhaps later), Iím writing this as the world has gone silent at 11 a.m. on Sunday, November 11. Okay, Iím writing it a few minutes after as I had to take my moment to reflect and thank all of our veterans and service people for the sacrifices they have or have still to make in order to give us the freedoms we enjoy and the respect and love of countries around the globe.
I normally like to take in the Remembrance Day ceremonies, but this year was a little different as Baby K once again asserted that she runs the schedule. By about 10:30, she had grown so inconsolably cranky (which is strange for her) that going wasnít even an option. Nothing about an angry baby screams respect.
So, with a quiet house and my own personal opinion about the extreme importance of this day, I reflected on what Remembrance Day is. Which led to some thoughts on what it might be when Baby K is old enough to understand the weight it bears.
I wrote a column a couple of weeks ago about how Halloween is dying out. While itís not to the same degree, I feel that Remembrance Day isnít as observed as it was even five years ago and that it is continuing to lose the impact it has always held for me with the younger generations.
While there are many reasons for this that range from the over-commmercialization of Christmas that has worked hard to tell us that there is no holiday between Halloween and Christmas (and thus, holiday preparations should begin November 1) to a sense of muddled confusion over what our troops are really doing in places like Afghanistan, I think there is one thing that is increasingly missing from the lives of our youth that is slowly shrinking the sense of gratitude that needs to be there for the men and women (both past, present and future) of our military, police, fire protection and ambulance workers deserve.
Itís something that I had as a child, but itís something my daughter will likely never experience.
Itís the chance to witness the emotionally charged moment when a holocaust survivor steps away from the podium to collect himself as he speaks of how he was starved, over-worked, forced to sleep with six others in one twin bunk and spent many of his days digging mass graves to bury his father, his friends and the generous neighbor who used to save small bread rations just so his growing body would have a chance at survival.
Itís the opportunity to listen to her great-grandmother tell her about the paralyzing fear that came on the back of the air-raid sirens that would blast through the streets of London when all they could do was climb under their desks and hope because they knew full-well that a desk wasnít going to do anything against a bomb. Or the chance to recognize just how horrible things must have been in the Netherlands to silence her other great-grandparents about the war forever.
Itís watching a Veteran at the Remembrance Day ceremonies as he honours all of his fallen friends and then speaking to him and realizing that they donít see themselves as a hero. They just wish they could have brought every man home to his wife and children over 60 years ago.
By the time my daughter is old enough to truly appreciate the memories and emotions of these people who witnessed the World Wars firsthand, the personal connection will be gone. All that will remain is the history in her textbooks and the stories that we managed to capture when we realized that time wasn't infinite.
And while the soldiers and service people of our country are doing life-changing things for us every day, it`s not conveyed just how important their job is to maintain our privileged lifestyles. We don't talk about the post-traumatic stress syndrome that plagues many of them after a tour of duty, we don't think about that soldier that died beyond the news story that memorializes him or her and we don't understand the global importance of the peace-keeping work that our soldiers do all over the World. Not just in the places that our southern neighbors are seemingly waging war.
And I don't want my daughter to just know what she learns in her social studies textbook. I want her to feel the catch in her throat when someone who was there gives her a nothing held back telling of their experience. I want her to understand how different her life would be had our soldiers not been on the beaches of Normandy. I want her to respect the job that every military, police, fire and emergency service person is doing, because it matters.
And you don't get that out of a textbook.
So, just as I will be making a more pointed effort to do as Baby K grows, I urge you to think about how you remember. Take your kids to a Remembrance Day ceremony. Find a way to preserve the memories of your family members that have first-hand experiences with the wars so those stories aren't lost. Educate yourself about what is happening in the World so you can have a response when your six-year-old tries to understand how war makes anything better (something that one of my friends has recently had to consider). Don't let your kids opt out of the Remembrance Day ceremonies if your school board ever offers that option.
But most of all, teach your kids about respect and gratitude. Because those are the two things that are at the heart of this day and will take them further in life than almost anything.