This year’s Remembrance Day services were no doubt a historic one for everyone that it touched. Not only was it the one day a year where Canada as a whole pays tribute to the men and women who fought and served, as well as those who died, but the 2018 edition brought with it a monumental occasion because November 11 of this year marked 100 years to the very day that World War I came to an end.
Needless to say, the weight of that reality hung very heavy in the air when the gymnasium full of people at Outlook High School stood silent at 11:00 am during the service by the Legion.
I think when those two minutes of silence begin, everyone thinks of something different. Maybe you have loved ones who served, maybe you have loved ones who *currently* serve, maybe you have family who died doing so, or maybe you’re just thinking of a hundred different things to occupy the time.
Personally, I tend to think of the large handful of men and women that I’ve interviewed over the years; people who’ve been ‘over there’ and have an incredible first-person narrative of what wartime is truly like.
I think of the late Art Knutson of Elbow, who didn’t shy away from the details when he welcomed me into his home in the spring of 2013 to talk about his time in the Air Force during World War II. His opening statement of “You know, I figure I should’ve been killed four times over there” just after we’d sat down in his living room set the tone for what would turn out to be an incredible interview.
I think of 100-year old Donald Couch of Lucky Lake, who was the man of the hour at his historic birthday party back in February of this year. I remember spending just a few short minutes with the man, but his simple outlook on a long life was refreshing, and the fly-over by a massive aircraft carrier over the village in honor of Donald’s big day was truly something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
I think of my own friends who made the bold and brave choice to sign up and serve their country, guys like Alex, Cory, Cathan and Shawn. I think about the stories I’ve heard of their time spent around the world, and I marvel at their perspective on certain things and their attitude toward jumping right into the proverbial fire.
Specifically, I think of the time when Alex, one of my best friends, suffered a shrapnel wound almost a decade ago while serving. It’s one of those things where today, we can joke about it and perhaps even make light of the situation, but everyone in the room just doesn’t bring up the fact that it easily could’ve been a lot worse, and that’s a nightmare I don’t even pretend to think about.
I think of the special Bells of Peace ceremony that I just returned from that took place over at the Outlook & District Heritage Museum. Yes, it was cold, and yes, my fingers are still thawing out as I type these very words, but it was also incredibly important and a truly historic moment for branches of the Royal Canadian Legion across Canada. In the ceremony, ten people rang the old town fire bell ten times, marking 100 years since the end of World War I. Now granted, I was obviously there in a work capacity, but I would’ve been there regardless. Who’s to say when something like that will ever happen again to mark such an occurrence? Perhaps in 2045, when we’ve reached 100 years since the end of World War II?
I think of all these things, of all these perspectives and of all these people who I’ve been privileged to meet, and I can’t help but shake my head at the attitude shown by our federal government towards veterans in recent times.
You’ve heard the infamous sound byte, “They’re asking for more than we can give.” Man oh man, I didn’t think it was possible to hate eight random words so much in my life.
The provincial government just announced last week funding to the tune of $100,000 to be made available for Legion branches. Surely the “big boys and girls” in Ottawa can cough up something similar?
It’s amazing how much and how well this country is capable of honoring its past, but we also hope for the future, and our elected officials need to continue doing their part.
Money is great, and it can obviously help and do some good in a thousand different ways, but what Canada’s veterans are really asking for at the end of the day is respect.
If you ask me, I really don’t think that’s asking for more than Ottawa can give.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.