November 11 is a day for reflection and gratitude.
As humans, we aim to be honourable and virtuous while hoping that the challenges to which we are called will be surmountable. As parents, we raise our children to stand up for what is right but pray that this will never require them to lay down their lives.
I imagine the sufferings of those who have gone to war and wonder if they comforted themselves with the thought that their efforts spared another in their place, or with the dream that the generations to come might never know the hardships they experienced. I consider my easy life of peaceful safety and whisper, “Yes. Thank you. I am grateful. May I never know what it is to be at war. May my sons be spared your fate. May they be good men who live through peaceful times, and may they be grateful to you who made it possible. ”
The more I reflect, the more I realize that the respect we pay must stretch far beyond the brave soldiers who fought on our behalf in those iconic and historic wars.
We must also remember those who supported and loved them upon their return home; who nursed broken spirits and eased the transition back into a life that could never quite be the same. Those families might have been spared a life lost but were returned a different future. They shouldered the resonating damage; sometimes it echoed thunder through generations.
We must remember the many parents, wives, and children whose loved ones did not return. Our North American countries may not have been physically destroyed by bombs the way European cities were, but many households felt just as broken. To those stood amongst the emotional rubble produced by the loss of a family member, to those who surveyed the remains and slowly rebuilt; “Thank you, I am grateful for your strength. I remember and respect that this suffering was on our behalf.”
Perhaps most importantly, we must remember that this day is not only about the past. We must remember that troops bearing our flags are fighting at this moment. We must remember that for the men and women of our militaries, the question of “Would I fight for my country?” is not a hypothetical consideration; it is a daily affirmative. They are ready and waiting to defend and protect us all, and tours of duty are a reality to which most of us are oblivious to as we attend to the details of our own lives.
We must remember that there are veterans of all ages living with injuries, disabilities, chronic pain, PTSD, mental illness, and addiction. Many are struggling to access adequate health care, and poverty a common result of the limited ability to perform at previous levels. Here we must move beyond remembrance and gratitude, pushing for compassion and advocacy.
I have been writing for well over three years about the trials and tribulations of alcohol addiction and recovery. Even my comfortable life has complications and problems. Yet I know nothing of the additional challenges a military family might face when also healing from war-induced injuries. For my ignorance, I am humbly, respectfully, quietly grateful.
I will not forget; today or any day.