Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remember the Fallen

My husband is what you would call a "war buff". The Military and History channels get more airtime in our house than all the sports networks combined. As a result, I know more about war than I ever really wanted to. Learning by osmosis, I guess. I mock him for his morbid fascination with the most tragic and depressing chapters of our history books, but in reality, I don't hate watching those documentaries as much as I let on.

Of course, with today being Remembrance Day, it's right up there with Super Bowl Sunday for good quality TV programming. I was just watching a documentary on the Military Channel about the last days of World War I and I learned something that I didn't know about the war. To me, war has always seemed a completely senseless and tragic method of "conflict resolution", but this particular show really hammered that point home.

For some reason, I was not aware that the Armistice that was to mark the end of WWI was signed at 5am on November 11, 1918. The cease fire did not come into effect until 6 long hours later - the battle continued and some 2700 soldiers needlessly lost their lives. Private George Lawrence Price, a 25 year old farm labourer, was the last Canadian Soldier (and likely the last of the Allied forces) to fall - at 10:58, a mere two minutes before the declaration of peace in the "war to end all wars". Private Price, along with more than 2700 other soldiers, gave the ultimate sacrifice that day in a war that was, for all intents and purposes, already over. The tragedy of this story is overwhelming.

It is widely believed that the number of soldiers that died during those final 6 hours is actually significantly higher than recorded. The French government is reported to have altered the death records of their soldiers that fell on that day to avoid the inevitable backlash and public outcry that was to come when it was learned their loved ones had died needlessly after the Armistice had been signed. The dates of death were engraved "November 10th" on those military headstones, lest they have to answer any questions about the inexplicable 6 hour "peace delay".

Today I attended a Remembrance Day ceremony at my kids' school. The entire service - the readings, songs, poems and pictures - was put together by the Grade 6 students. It was a beautiful and moving ceremony which left many of the attendees, myself included, reaching for the kleenex. Thinking back to my own school days, I don't recall any special Remembrance Day celebrations, other than the obligatory minute of silence at 11am. I am happy to see that the school board is trying to instill in our children an appreciation for the sacrifices that many have made to ensure their freedom (in spite of the inexplicable fact that our provincial government does not deem today important enough to warrant a Statutory Holiday......but that's another blog post all together).

So, today we remember the fallen, those who came home and those still fighting today. Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do. Thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice so that my children can proudly live in a country that is strong and free. Simply, humbly, thank you.