November 11, 2011 on 1:00 am by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on Echoes of Remembrance
Today is Remembrance Day. They’re all important but maybe today notably so since we have a once-in-a-century day marker in 11/11/11.
As a kid Remembrance Day was all about learning John McCrae’s “In Flander’s Fields” and little plastic finger-pricking poppies. Then, it seems to me, there wasn’t much depth to public school Remembrance Day. It was not for lack of effort on our teachers’ part. It was a relatively peaceful time and we never really learned what the day was meant to be – a day of thankful, appreciative reflection.
Today, with battles happening in places like Afghanistan (for instance), I imagine it’s much clearer for kids to get what Remembrance Day means. I hope so. Anyway, while not the working person’s statutory holiday it should be, it strikes me we are much better at marking the day – and remembering.
Members of my family, like many others, were active freedom fighters: many served their country. Today we often think of “freedom fighters” as a bad thing. “Freedom fighter” has a connotation of subversion. We so often read in the news of “freedom fighters” as coming from a terrorist cell or terrorist block along with their (sadly) explosive and awful destructive ways.
Today we live in one of the greatest places in the world, and that – we should always be reminded – is what our freedom fighters fought for.
So today I think of my Dad’s father, Robert; the handsome, strapping young fellow [pictured here] who spent four of the prime years of his life living through WWI in the dank, soul-destroying trenches of France. A Sergeant in the 11th Hussars (Dublin based) and the Leicestershire Yeomanry (England) [“there were a lot of Irish lads in the Regiment”] he learned to ride a horse rein-less, with his knees, in order to hold a “firearm” – as they say today.
He beat the odds only to live the rest of his post-war days with bullet scars through either sides of the right side of his neck. One can only imagine the scars that couldn’t be seen.
I never knew him, he died before I was born, but I did know my Uncles, his sons. Three of my Dad’s brothers served (my Dad, not part of the fighting war story, due to the fate of his birthday). Two of my Uncles, Bob, a Grenadier Guardsman, and John, a member of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, were part of Débarquement de Normandie, D-Day. Amazingly, they both survived – and lived long lives.
I recall, after one long night on the town in Edinburgh not so long ago, with Edinburgh friends. It was no earlier than three or four in the morning. We talked.
The subject came up: what made our fathers, what made their fathers – and – what made us. A classic boozy talk, I know.
We all agreed that the war to end all wars, World War I, while predating us by scores of years, had a huge impact on who we were. After all, the trenches influenced our grandparents, that, in turn, touched our folks (in a big way) and well, the rest is history. Our history.
And that’s all to say the obvious: war is awful, insidious and beyond horrible: What happens in war echoes and reverberates through generations.
Still, even knowing that, I am grateful for the sacrifice of my fellow citizens – and family.
I do my best to remember.
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