Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembrance Day

Monday is Remembrance Day. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the Great War officially ended. At the time, it was called the War to End All Wars. Today we call it World War One, and because some people forgot just how bad it was, there was a second one.

Once more, guns fired, bombs fell, and men, women and children died in numbers too horrible to contemplate. Villages, towns and whole cities were reduced to dust and ashes, and, once more, young men lined up, or were called into the lineup, to put their lives at risk for the things they, or somebody else, most dearly believed.

One of them was my mom's kid brother-in-law, James Fasken Green. Uncle Jim and his pals went to Holland. He made the round trip and many of them didn't. I remember him telling stories about his adventure, and the stories all seemed to be missing something. He told us about the countryside and the weather, and he told us about the cheerful Dutch people waving their little flags when the Canadian boys marched by, but I realize now that he never said anything about the war. What he and his friends had seen was, and remained, a private thing. I think that my dad was one of Uncle Jim's heroes.

Alexander MacPherson was born in 1909, before the First World War had even begun, so he was well into his thirties when the second rolled around. He and my mom had two little kids at the beginning of World War Two, and before it was over, they'd have a third. I guess they were optimists.

I don't know if my dad ever tried to enlist, but I suspect that somehow or other, somebody decided that he was Not Needed on the Voyage. He did serve in the militia - Dad's Army, if you like. This was a commitment of one night every week and his alternate weekends. During that time, he would be involved in training exercises or posted on guard duty at different strategically critical locations. While it might not seem like any great contribution, please recall that the Empire of Japan didn't capture the Seaforth Armoury while Alex MacPherson and his wooden Enfield were on the job!

Ever since John MacRae wrote that little bit of verse in 1918, people have been wearing pressed paper poppies on Remembrance Day. Most of us will wear them out of respect, many out of courtesy, some of us out of habit.

I'll be wearing mine for my Uncle Jim and for my dad.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Lee,
    You brought things into perspective for me. When I buy my poppy, I seem to focus on how I am going to get the little devil to actually stay in place and not end up on the sidewalk with the other escapees. A friend told me to stick the pin through the material of my lapel and then actually bend it over. (seemed like a good suggestion). Let's just say that I now associate the site of blood with my dear poppy, which is actually quite appropriate.
    My thoughts will be of my Grandfather today, a proud decorated veteran, who lived through Vimy Ridge and went on to celebrate his 99th birthday.
    Thanks for your blog my friend.