lest we forget


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.

4 thoughts on “lest we forget

  1. I remember the little paper poppies we would put through the button-hole of our blouse. It was a sign we supported the cause and dropped a few coins in a can. Little did we know then, war was a forever challenge and we would eventually know people who died in it. Thank you for the memories, Isabella.

    1. Buying and wearing poppies is part of our Remembrance Day commemorations here in Canada, Chris. One year, I was in an American airport around Remembrance Day. A little girl was pointing at me and whispering to her Mom. She wanted to know why I was wearing a flower. I was happy to share the story and symbolism with her.

      The poem, “In Flanders Field” is traditionally read at our Remembrance Day services…In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row..http://www.flandersfieldsmusic.com/thepoem.html

  2. Hi Isabella! Thanks for this. It brought back memories of my 9 month pilgrimage with Grace. We walked through the Polish cemetery at Monte Cassino and remembered, as did I today.
    Keep your dialogues coming.

  3. Dear Alice,

    Oh, I can picture you and Grace at Monte Cassino. Her Benedictine heart must have been so excited to be at the monastery. Her Polish soul must have been breaking while walking through the cemetery. I visited Monte Cassino during a General Chapter with our Marianist Brothers. Seeing the cemetery brought tears. The memory still does.

    Thank you, so much, for this.

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