Today is Remembrance Day. For as long as I have been teaching, I have cried at Remembrance Day ceremonies. Today was no exception. I was doing pretty well until the little speech after The Last Post - the one that starts, "They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old..." At my grandmother's funeral, when a member of the Canadian Women's Army Corps started to read that passage, she broke down. She explained that that was always the part my grandmother read at other funerals.
Let me back up. When I started teaching, in 1998, Remembrance Day was a reminder that my grandmother and grandfather both served in WWII. The next year, a friend started dating a military man. She married him in 2002. In 2005, my grandfather passed away. In 2007, my grandmother passed away. Also in 2007, my sister-in-law married an army man, and in January of 2008 both he and my friend's husband were sent to Afghanistan. Thankfully, they both came home safely, but it's a lot to process each November 11.
I remember learning about conscription when I was in grade 10. I remember thinking that 18 was plenty old enough to go overseas and fight. Then the Persian Gulf conflict broke out when I was in grade 12. I had friends who were 18, and the thought of them going off to fight was horrifying. Some of my classmates said they were going to enlist as soon as they turned 18, and I thought they were far too young to make that kind of decision, that kind of commitment. Now, in my 30's, I look at my brother-in-law, who is 22, and think _he_ is far too young to be serving overseas. And then you realize that boys even younger were lying about their age and serving in WWI and WWII.
I was discussing the words to In Flanders Fields with my homeroom, and explaining that those who died are asking us in that poem to continue their struggle. One student asked why, if we're supposed to be promoting peace, we would agree to continue that struggle. I asked the students what they thought, but they couldn't come up with an explanation (one student went so far as to say that there is no quarrel to be taken up anymore). To me, we agree to take up the quarrel because there are those who insist on quarreling. As long as people are willing to take away basic human rights from other people, as long as people are willing to maim and kill in the name of country or religion, we have to be prepared to stand up to them. We have to continue to struggle against injustice. Standing by and allowing it to happen is the same as perpetrating the injustice ourselves.
Today, even more than usual, I am grateful to those who chose, and who continue to choose, to risk their lives to fight against what is wrong, and to protect the freedom we enjoy in my country.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.