Today is Remembrance Day. November 11, 2015. Every year since I was a child I would stop what I was doing at 11am to pay homage to all the brave men and women who served in the wars. This year was the same.
But this year was also very different.
I read the stories about what took place in the wars. I was even obsessed with watching the British TV miniseries such as Foyles War, Land Girls that were set during WWII. I can’t even tell you how many movies I’ve seen. You could say that I had an idea of what went on, even though these were fiction.
Back in September Hubby and I went to the UK for his book launch and also to attend a conference. We took some days to sightsee, as this was my first time there. We went to the typical tourist places such as The British Museum, London Tower, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye etc. But we also went to the War Museum, something that I normally wouldn’t put on my list.
When I first entered into the museum I saw a WWI spitfire plane. I was finally able to see in real life the plane that my Hubby wrote in one of his fiction books. I could understand the flimsiness that these brave pilots had to fly. I was in awe.
As we walked through the museum we saw tanks, submarines, missiles. I could feel my chest getting tight. I tried to imagine what it would be like to have these huge death enhancing things approaching me. I just couldn’t. All I felt was fear.
We visited the WWI & WWII displays. There we saw the posters that were sent to Canada and Australia to recruit men to help in the cause. We saw what the Women’s Land Army did to contribute to the war efforts and how women worked in munitions factories. We also saw how the men were suited to go to war. They had practically nothing to protect them from the elements!
There were displays of letters written home by the men, where they pleaded to be saved or killed, as they saw death to be a better option than where they were. The death and destruction was overwhelming.
I tried to make my way out, but had to go through a make-believe trench. It was extremely realistic and I could feel the fear growing inside of me. I knew I was safe, that it wasn’t real. I could not help wonder what the poor men had to face every day while at war.
At the end of the trench there were props where you could wear army attire. I usually jump at the chance to play dress up. However, as I picked up the jack and hat, I had to place it back down onto the counter. This wasn’t a time to play around; this wasn’t something to have fun with. There were many men who had bullets go through those very same helmets and jackets. This was a time to remember and honour and pay homage to them.
I walked out of the museum with a heavy heart. I couldn’t wrap my head around how something so evil and destructive could take place. As much as I tried I could not understand why someone would want to go to war.
As we walked London we walked by the river and saw the damage that bombs made to some of the statues of the Sphynx.
A few days later Phil and I hiked in the English Countryside. We came across what was recently discovered to be training trenches. We met a few men who were clearing them for a memorial service to be held a few days from then. They had said that the men would come for a few days, dig, and then go out and fight. Wow.
About a month after we returned home we watched another movie set during WWII. It didn’t have the glamourous affect that it usually did. I was anxious throughout the entire movie and I couldn’t sleep at night. In the past, knowing that I was in Canada, and the war took place ‘over there’ in Europe meant that it wasn’t close to me. But visiting the War Museum, seeing the conditions these people lived in, witnessing the real damage caused by the war made it very real for me.
And then last week I talked to my Mom about growing up during WWII. She told me about how the Nazis would go through her town killing people, how her father (my grandfather) was captured by the Nazis and became a POW. She told me how he survived on potato skin scraps because he was given nothing to eat. This hit very close to home for me. I couldn’t even fathom going through all of that, and here my mother, my aunts and uncles, people so close to me grew up in this.
I am free because of these people.
So this Remembrance Day, I don’t just thank you, the soldiers for fighting and giving me freedom. I thank you, brave human beings, for risking your life. I thank you for sacrificing for me. I thank you for doing what you did despite your fears. I thank you for giving up all that you knew and going into the unknown, incomprehensible. I thank you for being you. And I love you.