11 November 2009

Remembrance Day

I know. For all of you Americans it's Veteran's Day and judging by the local papers, it's all about the kickoff to Christmas shopping and maybe a parade of old guys in dated uniforms showing up at a War Memorial. At least, that's what it looks like when I look at a newspaper. I suspect that it's considerably more serious for many.

However, I am Canadian. Proudly Canadian. We do things differently. Remembrance Day for us is mostly about WWI. Naturally it's expanded, all Canadians that have fought all over the world are honored, but it all started in 1917. At the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day every year, one minute of silence falls all over the country.

My personal hero has always been Billy Bishop, a pilot who, in an airplane made of balsa wood and canvas, managed to become the Ace of Aces. For those of you who have been to an airplane museum, you know that these things look like toys to us now. It's impossible to imagine not only flying one of them, but taking what would seem like insane risks. I'm quite sure that today's pilots would sooner play catch with a grizzly than face machine gun fire in one of those insubstantial vehicles. Billy Bishop flew and fought in one of them for literally years.

We've all heard (and most of us Canadians memorized) McCrae's famous poem, "In Flanders Fields". Many don't know the background to it. Dr. McCrae wrote it during a twenty-minute break after having spent 17 full days treating and losing young men at the battle of Ypres in 1915. He was no stranger to combat and it's inevitable result - the Boer War was his training ground. He continued his work until 1918, when he died of pneumonia.

I know this is all uncharacteristically serious for me - try not to drop dead with the shock. Someone needs to remember, though. The ads that are all over the place, exhorting us to go shopping and spend money are offensive to me. This day, November 11, should mean more than that. If we can't give one minute of silence for those that have fallen, then we don't deserve what they died to bring us.


  1. Thank you Messy, for this beautiful, and poignant reminder.

  2. Hear hear! It's sad that any and every holiday is now about buying something in the US. The fallen as well as those that are out there fighting for us deserve a moment of appreciation.

  3. I say we stick all those marketing assholes in a trench and make them charge a machine-gun nest manned by veterans. The world would be better off without them (the marketing guys, not the veterans.)

  4. Yeah, you don't want to mess with the veterans. When I was noodling around on the net yesterday I discovered that Canada still has one surviving WWI veteran. He's 109 years old - born in 1901. Amazing.

    I think the US has one left as well, close to the same age.

  5. Messy, thanks for your reminder. I remember the poem In Flanders Fields" but I didn't know the history of the poet.

    I remember when I was a kid visiting those vast militaty cemeteries made up of white crosses as far as the eye can see... so sad, so much has been lost with those young lives....

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