It is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The gathering at the Cenotaph becomes hushed as the two minute “Wave of Silence” begins. It is at this moment that Remembrance becomes totally personal.
For those veterans who witnessed war first hand it will be about their units, most especially about those who became friends, those that served in the same Regiment, on the same ship, or in the same squadron. Some were close friends, some just passing acquaintances, but all Brothers-in Arms.
For my grandfather, a survivor of Vimy Ridge, it would not only be memories of the fallen, but of the brutal conditions under which they served. About the only thing I ever got from him was that he did not have dry feet for two years. For my father, it was the tragedy of Fallaise, where more than thirty tanks were lost in half an hour, and the bodies covered a stretch over seven miles.
Neither of these veterans talked much about their appalling experiences, but they did remember many events on the lighter side. This is often shown by veterans at November 11th ceremonies when, after the formal ceremony, an informal one would quickly get going in the Legion Hall. Songs and toasts to their old buddies, along with a few tears would be the honour given to those who could not be with them on this, to a veteran, a Holy Day.
I did not serve in any theatre of war, but as many veterans of “Peacetime” service, I remember the many friends and squadron mates who gave their lives in the pursuit of Peace and Freedom. Fifteen of my squadon mates, many close to my family, were lost on the March 23, 1965, as CP107 Argus 20727 of 404 Maritime Patrol Squadron, Captained by Kaye Huet, went into the shark-filled waters north of Puerto Rico.
Then there was Gerry, who flew into a mountain in Germany in a CF104 Starfighter.
My very close friend and neighbour, Mel, newly promoted to Major, from Victoria, had his CF5 “Freedom Fighter” fly into the runway at Cold Lake, Alberta. Two CF101 Voodoos from 409 Squadron, Comox, were rehearsing for an airshow when something went terribly wrong. Both aircraft rolled and hit canopy to canopy and both AI Navigators died. Sadly, there were others whose names I cannot remember who died in other Argus and Hercules crashes. I am sure that all who served could elaborate with stories of their own. But, what about those who have no connection to the military? Those people, especially young people, with no parent or grandparent, no uncles, aunts or cousins with military history, what are they thinking, and who do they think about during that two minutes? It is my most fervent hope that they take that time to say “Thanks” to the Deity of their choice for being so fortunate as to live in Canada. It is the best place on Earth for freedoms and human rights. To all I will say at every opportunity, please remember by wearing a poppy. “Freedom is not free.”