Ninety-six years ago today at 11:00am the guns fell silent. The Great War was over. Unfortunately like every successful movie there was a sequel, and as usual it was much worse than the original. War has been a part of our world since time immemorial, and to this day we dream of a day when that will no longer be the case.
I would like to invite you all to join me this morning in standing for two minutes of silence. On Remembrance Day every year those of us who served, and especially those of us who served in combat, ask you to join us to remember our friends, our brothers, who did not make it back. We ask you to join us for two minutes every year to remember those that we remember every day – every minute of every day – of our lives.
To many the phrases like ‘All gave some, some gave all’ is a catchy phrase. For those of us who lost friends, whose friends came back missing limbs, who came back with a darkened soul, it is much more than that. We did not do what we did for honour or glory or the medals that would decorate our chests and eventually find a place in a drawer, We did it in the hope that our children would not have to.
There will never be another ‘Great World War’ like 1914 and 1939 – the nuclear age and the dissolution of the nuclear superpowers saw to that. The wars of the immediate past and of the future are very different and for some that makes it harder to recognize them as wars, but they are wars and the toll they take on our soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen is just as harsh; often because of the reception back home it is much harsher and lasts much longer.
Today I ask you to stand at 11:00am with me. You don’t have to salute and you don’t have to stand at attention, but stand and do not fidget. Remember the men and women who put their lives in harm’s way so that our world can be free of tyranny and oppression. Remember those who got onto boats, planes, trains, and busses to go meet the enemy so that you, your parents, and your grandparents could be safe. Remember those buried in the fields of Flanders, Ypres, Dieppe, Normandy, and hundreds of other fields beneath crosses and stars and too often unmarked ground… in Europe, the Pacific, in Africa and the Middle East. On the ground and at sea, they served so that we could live free.
Perhaps the most famous poem that honours our fallen soldiers is by a Canadian named John McCrae. He served in World War I, was a physician and held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He fought in the Second Boer War earlier, and when the Great War broke out in 1914 he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Although he was a doctor he opted to join a combat unit, and while he was also the medical officer he was also a gunner. He believed in duty, and fought for his country and for the British Empire.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
LtCol McCrae died in January, 1918… he did not see the end of the Great War, nor the publication of his famous verses. We remember him, along with all of the rest.
Lest we forget those who fought for us, protected us, died for us.
SSgt M.D. ‘Taz’ Garvis