We all talk about armed soldiers and the experiences that they have endured. It might be worth noting that these soldiers are in large part just children, under the age of 20 when we thrust upon them the responsibility of determining who is to live and who is to die.
Ironically enough sent into these conflicts by adults (politicians) who could not get along.
I can assure you that what occurs at these junctions in time is nothing like the movies.
I took it upon myself in 2013 to walk the entirety of the Normandy Beaches, yes, the whole nine yards, every step. Took over six days, my wife accompanied me on most of it. I have climbed the Point du Hoc promontory and personally inspected hundreds of battle sights, defensive positions and grave sites; some of which are hidden in dense underbrush throughout Europe. Yes, I also visited the death camps, places where I could not detect even the faintest sounds of life such as birds calling; the evil that still existed in those sites was still that palatable.
I visited the Berghof, Hitlers home in Bavaria and the seat of all evil, now reduced to rubble due to allied bombing in 1945. Yes, I took souvenirs.
My parents visited Dachau many years ago. My mother had to be accompanied off site because she suffered a near mental breakdown. Even though she harboured the knowledge that her older brother was seriously wounded three times while in uniform in Korea, she couldn’t fathom the horror when she was confronted with it face to face. I had just been born on a US military base and that may have played into her panic. I think it is important to note that military service doesn’t just affect those of us that strapped on the uniform; but our entire families and our communities as well. I can clearly remember when I was in high school how the Selective Service (draft) produced enormous amounts of anxiety, particularly the mothers whose sons were about to come of age.
I have stood in the former office in Prague of Reinhard Heydrich, Germany’s main architect of the holocaust. I have researched over the years his final resting place, I have found it in East Berlin. He was murdered thankfully by two Czech and Slovak soldiers trained by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1942. My wife and I will visit this site next spring, not to commemorate but to demean; I will leave that act up to your imagination; there will be pictures.
I come from a family of former military personnel. We as a family consider it an honour to have served our continent and country in such a way. My wife does not fully understand the depth of my patriotism, not just for the US but for all those in North America who strapped on the uniform and found themselves in harm’s way. I believe it is impossible for those who have not served to understand just how ugly life can really be and what it takes to continue to provide the safety and security for all throughout North America.
“Maintaining that mantle of freedom under which we all sleep at night, comes with a cost.”
Please do not take your freedoms lightly, many have paid with their lives so that we don’t have to live like animals under the thumb of some idiot despot. I can assure you that those of us here in North America have a way of life that those in the rest of the world can only dream of; because their worlds are not so occasionally reduced to nightmares.
To those Canadians who have served, we stand shoulder to shoulder in pride with you today, as always.