Remembering the fallen
Tonight is the eve of Remembrance Day and I’m struck by how grateful I feel to be sitting in the warmth and comfort of my own home – unafraid and with ample freedoms. Our country is one of the fortunate ones where people are not actively persecuted for their ideas and opinions, religious beliefs, political dissonance, or under constant threat of war and death.
It has been just under eight years since I was in Afghanistan. I wasn’t there as part of military service, but as a civilian. Upon meeting some of our Canadian troops at a Canada Day event the Consulate was putting on one year, the question I was asked over and over was “how can you be here as a civilian? I can’t even imagine”. Because you see, they couldn’t believe how people like me could go about our days working and living without protection (armed with firepower) – particularly in light of the things they saw and were exposed to on a daily basis. They were all too aware of the constant dangers that faced us all. However, the reality was that people like me were protected… by them. Because they were out patrolling, I got to sleep at night. As one of the protected, I never had to see or be exposed to the kinds of things our military personnel did.
One incident that remains vivid in my memory was a suicide bomber attack on an ISAF troop vehicle right outside my work compound, which resulted in us going into lockdown for over ten hours well into the night. It was the military personnel who cleared the roads, completed two more controlled detonations, and had to deal with the threat of additional suicide bombers who might take advantage of the situation. It was not me. The people like me were inside our compound in lockdown, waiting. Waiting for safety, and eventually, the escorts to take us home. And they did.
I’ll never forget.
And on this eve of Remembrance Day, it seems right that we think back and remember the current and other wars before us and all the men and women who gave their lives for our current future. I was so moved when I came across the news of the project “The Fallen” created by British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss, along with hundreds of volunteers earlier this fall. The artists and 60 volunteers traveled to Normandy to stencil silhouettes into the beach that represented the soldiers who had given their lives during the D-Day landing in World War II on June 6, 1944. They wanted to give a visual sense of the scale of those who had died on the beaches of Normandy that day. In the end, they successfully stenciled in 9,000 of the fallen. I think in seeing these pictures, you’ll agree – the scale is enormous. Before long, over 500 people were helping with the effort.
Wardley says: “… there were people from all over the world who had heard about the event and travelled all the way to France to take part. There were others who happened to be walking by and wanted to get involved. It showed that people from all over totally understood the message behind it and I found it very overwhelming. Some people told us that they lost family in the Second World War and others said they had lost loved ones in Afghanistan and wanted to pay a tribute to them.”
And what a beautiful tribute it was.
Let’s remember this Remembrance Day of those in service and those before them.