Today is Remembrance Â Day. And as people gather around cenotaphs across Canada (and the world), its right to think about what we are remembering. And that is growing difficult, because there are no more living veterans of that war. Remembrance Day began in 1919 a year after the end of World War I, in order to commemorate the dead in that war. World War I was a war filled with death. World War I devoured men, with overÂ twenty two million men dead, wounded or missing on the allies side alone.
This was a war in which men sat waiting for days, and months, sitting in disgusting trenches, withstanding lice, bold rats that crawled across men while they slept, the ever present smell of rotting flesh and sewage, and then, one when the command came, these men would climb over the top of the trench and charge towards the enemy into barbed wire, and machine gun fire. Imagine, being one of those men, and having to do that. To run at and enemy, an exposed target, a very visible target to the machine gun batteries, expecting to die. But worse, men died daily Â without ever leaving their trench. Shells would explode overhead, raining down shrapnel. A man might stand too tall and expose his head to snipers and be shot. And then there was the gas, poison gas used for the first time during this war. This was a war in which nations threw their youth and men against a wall of bullets, and then threw more against that same wall. It was terrible. It was a nightmare and a horror. Â And for four years it continued in the same vein.
On this day, I remember the dead. The men who never returned to wives and families, the boys who lied about their age to join up and who never grew up, the men who got caught up in patriotic fervour and joined on a whim, those men shamed into joining. And all of those who never came home, or came home so changed that they could not speak of what it was like for many years. For those men who came home, and watched their numbers dwindle and memory of their fellows fade. And now they are gone. And we should work harder to remember them.
Lest we forget.