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Remembering Today's Heroes

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. I've decided to publish this week's a day early, since it's a Remembrance Day column. Here you go!

The first time I met a soldier I was nineteen years old. My Queen’s University housemates and I encountered him in line at a movie, and we felt sorry for this lost, obviously brainwashed soul. We invited him back for a homecooked meal in the hopes that we could talk him out of his warmongering ways.

Consider this column my apology to him.

I grew up in downtown Toronto, which recently denied a request to display “Support Our Troops” on their buses because such sentiment was deemed too political. Twelve years ago I moved to Belleville, and my whole perspective has changed. Today, when I think of the military, I do not picture violent prone individuals. I think of honourable and amazing men I call my friends: Kevin and Kelly and Steeve and Gerry and Gord and Craig and Mike, and I remember Nelson. I now sport a Support Our Troops magnet on my van, which somehow always manages to get stolen whenever I drive to Toronto. But I happily replace it nonetheless.

The military families I have met have so little to do with warmongering and so much to do with what I want Canada to be. I have come to realize that the things that we equate with being Canadian—freedom, responsibility, opportunity, duty, honour, sacrifice, generosity—are often best exemplified by the military, whose main job it is to protect Canada, to stand up for what we collectively believe in, and to spread that belief around the globe. As the poet said, “it is the soldier, not the minister, who has given us freedom of religion. And it is the soldier, not the journalist, who has given us freedom of the press.”

Last week, in Iraq, fifty-eight unarmed worshipers were gunned down while attending mass at a Catholic church. That’s barbaric, and that’s the kind of thing that our forces are trying to prevent in Afghanistan. I don’t know if they will be successful; can you change a part of the world that thinks it’s okay for girls to be married at ten, that it’s not okay to educate women, and that people don’t have the right to their own beliefs? But today little girls are attending school in Afghanistan, and that is something for which Canadians should take much pride.

This year, I hope that our schoolchildren are being given the chance to take pride not just in what their great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents did, but also in what our soldiers do today. In my schooldays we recited In Flander’s Fields and listened to talks about World War II. The production too often rendered the impression that good wars were those which were fought only very long ago, and had little to do with me today. In that moment of silence, I would always meditate on my great-uncle who was wounded in Vimy Ridge. Remembering seemed like only a duty to the past, rather than also a duty to the future.

When I close my eyes on November 11 now, I thank God for the sacrifices of those in World War I and II who saved this world from unthinkable horror. But throughout the day I also think of Suzanne and Lisa and Eileen and Cheryl, who lived for months without husbands, navigating toddlers learning to walk and teenagers starting to date, all without their mates. I see Rebecca’s and Ethan’s faces right after their daddies came home. And I see the faces of my friends, with tears in their eyes, when they hear that another comrade will not be making that trip back.

I cannot enter into their lives completely, for the military is a family all to itself. But I can stand with them, and I can say thank you. And I can remember.

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At 3:06 PM , Blogger Karen (Canadian Soldier's Wife) said…

Thank you, Sheila.


At 8:10 PM , Blogger Jo Frances said…

What a beautiful, moving post. Thank you.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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