Just watched the ceremony at the National War Memorial, and now killing time at work watching a rebroadcast of the Vimy Ridge Memorial rededication. Always on Nov 11, I think of my grandfather.
My grandfather was a bomber during the Second World War. He served mostly in Asia--in Burma. He speaks very little of the War, and the stories he does tell are mostly about his friends or about things they did when they weren't fighting. He rarely ever mentions bombing, and rarer still speaks of friends that were killed.
He enlisted when he was 18. There's a picture of him and his crew, a few years into the war, and the faces are all young. That always strikes me: That was asked a generation of young men from all over our young country to fight and die for others, and they answered (my grandfather volunteered). At 18, my grandfather was serving in the RCAF. He was watching friends die, fighting for people he had never met, in countries he likely knew little about.
Yet he would never call himself a hero. It was duty, it was what had to be done. The loud noise we hear now about how everyone who fought in the War, and in any subsequent war, being a hero isn't him and I don't think he would embrace it. He is what he always has been: a kind, gentle, caring man. He speaks at schools about the War, he attends Remembrance Day ceremonies every year, but there is never bluster.
And so I always think of him on this day when we commemorate the hundreds of thousands of young Canadians, like him, who stood up and put their lives on the line for others. Our little country sent the flower of its youth to die on the fields of Europe and in the skies of Asia, and today is the day to remember them.