I'm sure this is obvious to many people, but as I was up in the middle of the night thanks to baby drama (wet bed, nightmares caused by his own coughing, and a teething cranky baby girl), I was left reflecting on today, Remembrance Day. Today is the day we remember the end of WWI, the Great War, the War to End all wars. Well, it sadly wasn't the war to end all wars, but to the men fighting on the front line, and the women working hard as staff and nurses as well as on the home front, this was meant to be the last stand before peace. Peace for all future generations. It was a war filled with stories of heroic sacrifice, tragic loss, and men coming home missing both parts of their bodies and their souls. They saw things that could not be unseen. They gave parts of themselves they could never find again. They came home to a grateful nation, but lost a nation's worth of friends on the bloodied fields on Europe.
We also remember the brave men and women who served on our behalf during WWII. As we all learned growing up, they went to fight without knowing the depth of evil being perpetrated in eastern Europe. (Evils of which we as Canadians and Americans were not entirely innocent. Think of the musical Allegiance, which features the story of those in internment camps for Japanese citizens on American soil, a story too familiar to Canada. Anti-semitism and race based hate wasn't unheard of here either to say the least.) As the war came to a close, our soldiers and medical staff discovered the unthinkable as they freed the few survivors from the death camps. They had fought, not knowing what they were really fighting for until they came face to face with the walking death and horrific stories shared by survivors.
In the middle of the night, my mind wandered over these horrors and the what ifs. What if the military efforts of our Allies hadn't succeeded? What if the war had found our shores, and the attempt to white wash the world's population had reached my own neighbourhood? My best friend in elementary school was a very kind Jewish boy. I have several very dear friends as an adult both in person and through social media, who are of the Jewish faith. Then there are the African Canadian, Middle Eastern, Asian and East Indian friends I have. Would they be here? Seems doubtful. The amusing gypsy children (let's ignore that a few of them tried to pick my pocket) I met in Italy, would they be given a chance to live? All my friends and acquaintances with disabilities, all my friends who value their right to protest, all those who simply do not fit "aryan" qualifications... And my own maternal family line, whose lineage traces quite easily back to a town in Germany, are very few generations removed from our once proud Jewish heritage, lost when they converted to make life easier in Canada. What of them? Would my maternal family have survived the cruel cull of genocide? The population of my country and my circle of friends would be different. Chances are I wouldn't be a part of it to notice a difference.
As with any war, we can't just thank our veterans and those lost on the battlefields for the momentary battle that they won. We thank them for the future they secured for us. Sometimes I feel like it would be so easy to lose sight of how close we came to a world too dark to be imagined. We can't just thank them for the past, we must thank them for the present, and the future. We thank them for inspiring us to continue to fight for our freedom as they did, with their very lives.