As I watch the Remembrance Day coverage on television, the distant look in the eyes of the elderly veterans always touch my heart. As the trumpet plays its lonely rendition of the Last Post, the television camera pans to the group of now elderly men and women. They stand ram rod straight, their shaky hands saluting, eyes staring off to places I will never see. I wonder where their hearts are in this moment. What and who they are thinking about, their gaze so far away. The comrades lost? The exploding shell fire? The fear? Memories they have never shared? I suspect that all of that and more runs through their minds in those short moments.
Two Minutes of Silence
As the gun fires to mark the beginning of the two minutes of silence, the camera shows part of the crowd, held back by barricades, bundled up to pay their respects. A lady in the front row catches my attention. She is wearing a green hat and red coat, her eyes squeezed shut during the moment of silence. She is somewhere else as well.
The dark-haired middle-aged man in his jacket, poppy on his left lapel, leaning down to speak to his son. I hope it is to explain the meaning behind the ceremony. It unfolds in the same way every year. The traditions we uphold to mark the end of a war that no Canadian veteran is alive to remember first-hand. The number of second World War veterans declines each year, soon they will be gone as well.
Remembrance Day Tradition
My husband is a retired Army Reservist who proudly served for almost 25 years. He was a member of the 30th Field Artillery Regiment based in Ottawa, Ontario. The Regiment’s roots can be traced back to the creation of The Militia Act in 1855. These are the men and women who deliver the 21-gun salute on Parliament Hill each Remembrance Day.
Up early each November 11th, the members of Thirtieth Field meet at the unit, prepare the guns and drive to Parliament Hill. After completing their duties for the national ceremony, they proceed to the National Artillery Memorial. After saluting their fallen comrades, the tradition is to spend the afternoon in the Mess with colleagues and veterans.
One year sticks out in my mind. I asked Shane how the day had gone, especially the time with the veterans. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “They thanked us for serving. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.”