Remembrance Day has always been a very emotional time for me. My grandfather fought in World War II and, especially after having read some entries from his journal, the horror, the end of innocence for so many and the torture of those who were at home, waiting for their loved ones really hit home. So many of those who went over came back changed. You can't shoot someone dead and expect not to change, whether you buy into the us-versus-them mentality or not. Alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disfigurement. These are things that real people took home with them as a price for stopping a madman. I, for one, am thankful that they paid that price. It's hard to know what we would not have, never having to do without it, but the thought of not being able to live my life as I choose scares me.
As part of Beavers, Nicholas and I walked to the Butterdome at the University of Alberta, yesterday, and marched around the track to the applause of the multitudes of onlookers. I felt like a bit of a dork because I didn't yet have my Beaver Leader uniform, but everyone seemed to take that in stride. What really got to me was how Nicholas behaved. Not in a bad way. A lot of the kids, whether they were Cubs, Beavers, Scouts or even the Cadets that were seated in front of us, were jumping up out of their seats, talking and laughing, even during the two-minute silence that happened at 11:00. Nicholas sat quietly in his seat when we were sitting, he stood quietly when we were standing, he took his hat off when he should and he was patient, interested and well-behaved. Last night, I told him how proud I was of him, and I explained why Remembrance Day was what it was.
He laughed a little bit when I told him about crazy Adolph Hitler, until I explained that he wasn't like a TV bad guy, that he was hurting and killing people and that a bunch of people went over the sea to stop him. When he understood what I was saying, and he understood why it was important to remember and honour the people who fought in the war, I was proud of him. I was proud of myself, too, because I could make him understand why it was important to me.
When they had the veterans in the wheelchairs, being pushed by current members of the Armed Forces, it felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. To think of what they had been through, the life-changing events that brought them to where they are now, I imagine it must have been a real honour for the younger men and women to escort them around the track.
I don't usually make any grand claims to patriotism. I realise that we're a country, and we make mistakes. We're not better or worse than anybody else, but when we were called upon to help out, we went, we sacrificed, and we succeeded.
For that, I am thankful.