November 11, 2006

Nov. 11, 2006: We Remember Them

Bumped up and note that two updates have been added to the Nov. 10, 06 post.. Any newer posts today will be below the ones in remembrance. FHTR

A small, but deeply humble meditation on war

As a young boy I remember hearing on the radio actual Canadian Saber pilots' reports of dogfights in Korea. "Incoming, nine o'clock. Get him!" It all sounded so thrilling to this boy who played his own war games. My friends and I would dress up in army surplus gear, including gas masks, and battle it out with BB guns. Unlike our cowboy games, in the real thing, when you got "shot" it was beyond dispute. The yelp or the cracked glass of the gas mask was manifest proof of that. To augment my warrior spirit, my next door neighbour--a naval veteran--allowed me to watch "Victory at Sea" on his snowy TV. If memory is correct, it came on during Sunday afternoons. He had an on-going voice-over to scenes of ships sinking and depth charges walloping the U-boats. "Ya, that's what it was like", he would intone, when a torpedo was shown barely missing a vessel. I never skipped a single episode. It came to define Sundays for me.

Years later, when I was in my mid-teens, I talked to a relative, George, about his WW11 experiences. His role in the Italian campaign was to go into formerly held German towns and de-mine the place. The favourite ploy of the retreating Germans was to place a pressure mine behind a picture of Hitler. Thus, when some soldier in a fury smashed it with the butt of his rifle, his days of military toil were over. George's best buddy on the demolition squad made one mistake. It followed that old adage, "If it seems to good to be true, then it probably is." The man decided to ride back to the lines in true style, so jumped into a German jeep and turned the key. The cloying fear of death at any moment was conveyed by George's harrowing accounts, but it was what he refused to say that changed my attitude towards that glorious adventure, war. He was seconded to the British 8th Army in Germany and therefore was at the liberation of the Nazi death camp, Bergen Belsen. Just when he got to the part about the mounds of naked corpses left uncovered by a panicked SS, he stopped the narrative. I prodded him to continue; however, all he would say was, "You really don't want to think about what I saw."

Years into adulthood, I saw what George was unable to describe. It was a visage that haunts the minds of all civilized people ... death on an industrial scale, with the entire German nation complicit in one way or another ... and these were the people who brought us Kant, Beethoven, and Goethe. If they were capable of this, what of us? Since that conversation with George, I have come to see all wars as insufferable stupidity; yet, I still realize that some wars are necessary to protect democracy and human dignity. I put the suppression of the barbaric Taliban in that category. They have proven their evil intent beyond any question. When over 500 Canadian soldiers died in the (mainly forgotten) Korean War, we preserved democracy for South Korea. We have only to look at today's Orwellian state of North Korea to see what fate would have visited them had we lost.

As a side note: This may be apropos of nothing, but I saw it as an epiphany, my moment of enlightenment. Back in my BB gun days, I was a crack shot. Chipmunks and squirrels were my victims. One day in the woods I spotted a huge black squirrel. I hit him and he survived. Infuriated, I peppered him with shot. He still survived. By then, I was feeling guilty at not haven't given him a "clean" death. I emptied my BB gun into his branch redoubt. Finally, he fell to the ground. He was beautiful even in death. I was mortified. How could I have killed this magnificent animal? I never hunted any living creature again. I have never seen a black squirrel since that carnage. Maybe even then I was onto something bigger than my old war lust. I believe that was the turning point for my glorification of it. George simply confirmed what I should have known.

© Bud Talkinghorn--May our brave, young soldiers in Afghanistan feel that their efforts are part of a just war, for it is. May our politicians and the mainstream media not let them down.

We do remember all who died in war. May you rest in peace. Thank you.

A special moment of remembrance for those who have died in Afghanistan in the current operation* and for Major Hess-von Kruedener who died while on peacekeeping duty in southern Lebanon under the protection of the United Nations while serving with UNIFIL. FHTR

* Afghanistan 2002-2006: Names of Canadians who have died, including the names of those wounded in Afghanistan. Nov. 11, 2006, CanWest

Canadians honour yesterday and today's heroes at Remembrance Day Ceremonies

Photos: Canadian troops mark Remembrance Day

Canadian soldiers, joined by personnel from British, US, and Afghan forces, attend a Remembrance Day ceremony at Forward Operating Base Masum Gar in Panjwayi district, Kandahar province, November 11, 2006.
, CanWest/CP, November 11, 2006

Link for photos:

They laid a wreath at a wooden cross to honour the 42 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

Lest we forget -- a Canadian education

Surveys show that barely a third of Canadians can name Vimy as a great victory in the First World War, even when the answer is hinted...


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