November 11th.

What kind of day is today. Will the daylight warm my sun-kissed cheeks, or will the blustery winds wail upon my exposed flesh as I walk through the streets of London, taking in the sights of the dormant trees that occupy my field of vision.

Or, will I take a moment, and think about those that can no longer experience any of this.

Thank you Great Uncle Ralph. Although we’ve never met, I will never forget the reason you must rest here for eternity.

To many, November 11th is a half day off of work. And seeing that this date falls upon a Sunday this year, these people will gripe about that loss. To school children, it’s nothing more than a recitation of some dusty old poem. Or dreaded homework over the weekend writing a passage on what November 11th means to them. It may bring an assembly, and welcomed time away from school blackboards, but nothing more.

To most Canadians, it is a staid, rigid program that happens once a year, something that might interrupt a broadcast, or in some areas of the country, mean a detour due to some antiquated ceremony in progress.

November 11th means so much more than that. I’ve often encouraged those that do not share my appreciation of this date to use a little bit of their imagination. It would take some to put yourself into the shoes of another. And as I urge these people, I would also encourage you, the reader, to take a moment to allow yourself this brief experience.

For a second…imagine yourself at the age of 19. Almost fully grown, but still a teenager. Then, in that same train of thought, visualize yourself not out night-clubbing, or playing video games, but rather, lying flat in the mud on a freezing cold night in December.

That mud you presently lie in is not here in Canada, but instead is the soil of some occupied nation thousands of kilometres from where your warmth and safety once existed. The atmosphere is deadly, as enemy shells are exploding all around you, lighting the once serene night sky. You haven’t showered, eaten a hot meal, or slept under a roof in weeks. Any memories that would offer you comfort only leave you longing, and are a luxury you cannot afford. For at this moment, you are fighting not only for your country, but for your very survival.

Next to you in your foxhole is a former group commander. I say former due to that shell that ripped through his neck when he attempted to lay down covering fire so that his men could advance on the enemy. Try as you may, you cannot get the sound of his dying out of your head. You tried to stop the hemorrhage as he writhed in pain beneath you, leaving you covered in his blood.

That same blood coats your numb fingertips as they continually press down upon the trigger, so that you may bring a similar fate to those that have wreaked havoc not only upon your life, but upon the lives of all democratic-loving citizens across the world.

It sounds gruesome, but honestly, my feeble attempt at painting a picture of how it really, truly was (is) for so many service persons would be forever lacking.  No one that hasn’t actually experienced that variety of horror could do these unfortunate truths proper justice.

No citizen of humanity, anywhere, should ever know such terror and destruction. Yet, despite that thought, many do, and many more have.

So, as you go about your day today, wondering what to make for dinner, or what to watch on TV later, keep in mind that even as I write this, there are people living life with a lot less creäture comfort and security about. They are doing so for one reason, and one reason alone…so that you may enjoy what they cannot ever again take for granted.

“Freedom” is never free. And remembrance of that truth is a small price to pay for something that cost this, and all free nations, so much.

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