I grew up with war stories. My parents were Polish refugees during World War II. My grand-father fought at the infamous battle of Monte Cassino, a blood bath for Polish soldiers. As a child, Remembrance Day was a time of deep emotion. I shuddered at the eery silence as Taps were played. I choked back tears watching the aging veterans in parades and memorials. I hated watching the endless reels of war footage in our schools and on TV. Played, so we wouldn’t forget.
When it comes to war, we Canadian baby boomers are in a sandwich generation. Our parents and grandparents had personal experiences with war, or knew those who did. The Canadian Armed Forces of my generation seldom saw active combat. Our nation focused on peace keeping, and we were proud of it.
Then came 9/11.
My first thought when the planes hit the World Trade Center was, “we’re going to go to war!” My second thought was, “my son is old enough to fight.”
Canada did not go to Iraq, but we sent troops to Afghanistan. My children did not chose a career in the armed forces, but we knew young women and men who did. Suddenly, battles across the miles had a personal face. The stark youth of our fallen soldiers was heart wrenching.
Alongside the deaths came headlines of post-battle wounds, both physical and mental. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Suicide.
War is hell. Lest we forget.