Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. It’s a day where we pause to remember and reflect on the lives lost during international conflict. It’s a day to give thanks for the sacrifices made by the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, in pursuit of justice and freedom for their loved ones back home.
It is also a day to recognize those hurt by war, not simply those maimed through physical injury, but mental injury as well. Novemeber 11th is for all soldiers, those who fought in battle and those that continue to fight a battle after they return home. It is in remembrance of all the soldiers who have taken their lives since returning from war, and those who fight the hard fight to this day.
As the wife of a military veteran, I have seen the sacrifice first hand. I have seen families destroyed. I’ve known children who have lost. The pledge soldiers make in service of their country is a pledge made by each spouse and offspring standing behind them. Without the full support of their loved ones, the men and women who serve our nation would not be able to do what they do, see what they see and live how they live.
My husband and I were newly married and our daughter was only one years old when he turned to me one day and said “What would you think if I joined the military?” It was a question I hadn’t been expecting but perhaps I should have. We were both patriots, with a deep love for the Canadian flag and all it stood for: our free health care, our welcoming nature, our neighbourly outlook.
He was sworn in a week before 9/11, and left on a plane for Basic Training September 18. During that week of uncertainty, with the news replaying the collapse of the Twin Towers and the politicians vowing to kill the terrorists responsible we knew our time of peace was coming to an end. We knew Canada, an ally to the United States, would be called to action. Our resolve never wavered.
We told our families and friends “We are not fair-weather patriots.”
I was scared and so was he, but in the end we couldn’t stop thinking “What if that was a Toronto skyscraper and mostly Canadian lives lost?” How could we back down at such a time?
My husband spent 18 months living apart from us, first in Basic Training, then in his technician’s course in Kingston, a six hour drive away. We were not allowed to join him. In 2001 spouses and children were akin to furniture and affects. Weekend visits were sometimes impossible given his workload and small income. So, as the months passed, my daughter and I got used to not having him around. He’s not fighting a war, I told myself. Canadian women have endured far worse than this.
Our time in the military was a short 8 years, brought to an end by medical needs sustained after a car accident. Even now, my husband works alongside those in uniform and sometimes laments not being in one himself. The time he spent in service and the time we spent living on a military base, meeting families, making friends, seeing the effects of military life has given me new perspective on what it means to be Canadian, what it means to sacrifice.
Sacrifice isn’t just about losing your life but losing moments, connections, and friends. It’s about having little power and say in the great military machine but still seeing the necessity of it. It’s about learning to roll with the punches, getting up and marching on another day. This is the sacrifice of military families. This is what we should remember. We remember those enduring long separations, late night doubts, and crippling pain brought on by the unique manner of military life.
For me, Remembrance Day will never be the same as it was before my husband joined. It’s not about men who died in distant wars a hundred years ago. It’s about those in uniform who serve and sacrifice for our freedoms today.
Remember to take a moment today, a moment of silence, to think of those we lost and those we still need. May we never forget the savageness of war, and the courage required to face it.