Watching the Remembrance Day ceremonies televised from Ottawa, I became increasingly saddened as I looked at those time-worn craggy faces, men and women of conflicts past standing sombrely to honour those who gave their lives for King, Queen, country, liberty and peace.
I imagined them young and full of high spirits, fired up at the prospect of fighting the evil of their time: the Hun, the fascists, and the communists.
They stood with their chests full of medals, many ramrod straight with the indelible memory of proper military bearing and their eyes misty or wet with tears - fine men and women.
I remember my dad, giving his life in 1942 for a cause of hatred: not as a soldier but as a persecuted Jew, good only for conscription into the forced labour battalions of wartime Hungary. Lower than cannon fodder, they were sent to the Eastern front to dig trenches in support of the Germans fighting the evil Bolsheviks.
He perished without trace in a huge Russian armoured counter-offensive together with most of his comrades. He died neither for peace nor country, he killed no enemy; he wanted only to survive the madness to see his family again.
He died because he was thought to be disposable by the ruthless masters of his time, yet his death was no less heroic than those who fought. I visualized his face standing in a receiving line of the fallen, taking the salutes of the survivors. So I wept.
I wondered how God manages conflict within humankind. Friends or foes all pray to a common God for victory, for protection, for salvation. How does God decide whom to favour? Or would He in His infinite wisdom say: “I didn’t create the mess you are in; solve it yourself but, whatever you do, you’ll find forgiveness in me.”
Now that would be true impartiality.
It has been said that old men make war and send young men to fight it. All the old men I know - including me - felt the horrors of war in some ways and would never want it repeated.
Let us remember and cherish the memory of those fallen heroes without adding to their numbers in the future.
NOVEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
NOVEMBER 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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