Tuesday, 10 November 2015

What the Poppy Means to Me This Year

There is a kind of wistful patriotism that spreads across the country during the first eleven days of November. The scarlet hue of poppies adorning lapels everywhere brings the essence of military service and sacrifice into laser-sharp focus for even the most cynical of Canadians. We are challenged to remember and admonished about forgetting. There are deep nobility and honour that comes with these days, but for most, it is fleeting and ephemeral.

This year, I have newfound respect and kinship with those who have been touched by our greatest heroes. One of my nearest and dearests has recently enlisted in the Canadian Forces with the wholly virtuous goal of serving as a medical technician. He has chosen for himself a life of service, and one that will see him truly helping the afflicted. We are all tremendously proud of him, but watching him passionately prepare for his departure last week, I couldn't help but be slightly weepy and nostalgic for that little boy who used to bounce off  walls and do handsprings in my living room. This life that he has chosen for himself is impressive, but I cannot pretend that it doesn't come without some inherent risks and major concerns for all those who love him.

You see, we are not a military family. We care deeply about our country and her safety, but it hasn't been the purview of any of us to view the military as anything other than something that other people do. Please don't get me wrong. For all my liberal views, I am not entirely anti-interventionist, nor am I an extreme pacifist. There are times when an active and involved military is necessary, and as much as I loathe the idea of combat, I understand the implications under the right circumstances. But, until the last several years, being a Canadian has been all about watching our troops serve in humanitarian and peace-keeping missions. This is the Canada that I know and understand. The role of the Canadian military has been much altered over the last decade, and the world has become a much more frightening place for our men and women in uniform. This is the Canada that I am having a difficult time coming to grips with.

He will be fine. Intellectually I know this and understand this. He is choosing to serve for the finest of reasons...to save lives. But, logic only helps me up to a point. Reason goes out the window when I think of that little boy doing handsprings in my living room. I want him to be happy. I want him to live his passion. I want him to be safe.

This Remembrance Day will have added significance for our family. This year it becomes a bit more personal. This year we wear our poppies a bit more proudly and a bit less carelessly. This year I think of that boy doing handsprings in my living room and also of the exceptional man he has become. This year we stand and show our support for those who sacrificed and for those who choose to serve.

With love to you dear boy....

Lest we forget.

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