Tomorrow or today, depending on your time, for all the Commonwealth nations, America and other countries, it will be Remembrance Day, also called Poppy Day, Armistice Day and Veterans Day.
In Canada, like most other countries, we have a moment of silence and it seems as if the whole country goes silent, even the birds and the wind seem to go silent sometimes.
It's a day which we are always reminding people to never forget, to always wear a poppy and to thank the veterans who died and the ones who risked their lives to make sure that our country and other countries would be safe from people who would have surely brought the whole world to it's knees eventually.
I'm, as some of you know, a military fanatic and may end up in the military, so being the way I am, I always participate during this event at home, school and at work. I drop everything and I stand for the moment of silence to remember the people who died for me and my country. But unlike most people, I also remember the guys on the other side, "the bad guys", because they should be remembered too. I suppose I do this because I'm also Italian and my grandfather (my mom's dad), great grandfather (my dad's grandfather) and many other family members and friends fought on the axis side during The Great World War Two for Italy in Africa and other theaters.
Although I have allot of good war stories to tell (PM me if you want to read about more of them in a book I'm making), I thought this one would be fitting for the topic at hand. My grandmother (my dad's mom) told me this WWII story when I was watching a great movie called, A Bridge Too Far or The Longest Day (can't remember) at her house.
My grandmother said, "ah yes, I remember those helmets, the British, I remember seeing a bunch of solders on a hill with these kind of helmets, they had a flag and were going past our village in 1943." (probably winter of late 1943 after Christmas). My great aunt (my dad's aunt) was there too that day, but she said she had no memory of this. I asked my grandmother, "when did this happen?" She said it was a couple of days after the Germans had blown up her village's bridge that went across the valley there when the Germans started retreating. I said to her "did you see what the flag looked like?" She said she didn't know what it looked like because it was too hard to see, she just remembered the "Tommy" helmets. I talked to her about this when I was 12 I think. I knew allot about the war then, but I didn't know about everything that happened.
Some years latter, I had more knowledge about the war and also Canada's role in it, I found out about a major city called Ortona that was not too far away from my family's village. The Battle of Ortona was a huge battle the Canadians fought against the German Fallschirmjägers in. So I had a feeling that maybe Canadian soldiers were the ones she had seen, that got me excited. Strangely, as luck would have it, my cousin knew how much I loved history and passed on some information that confirmed my suspicions. He told me his friend visited a village that was next to ours in Italy and up in the mountains on a hill near our village, Canadian soldiers had been killed there during some fighting and they had graves that were up there.
Now, not all Germans were "ruthless evil monsters" during WWI and WWII, the same thing goes for the Japanese and other nations that were on the axis side, I just want to make that clear. But, some of the guys who had occupied that village since the beginning of the war there were quite horrible and did some very bad things to both sides of my family that I won't even get into on here because I can go on and on about the amount of damage they caused us. They had threatened my family members with death before on more than one occasion and nearly killed my great aunt once. (Going a bit off topic, they actually killed my grandmother's (my mom's mom) sister's whole family in another village. The Germans there shot the whole family (12 of them, if I'm not mistaken.) by firing squad, all the children and both parents died except for one little girl (my grandmothers niece and my second cousin) who miraculously survived. Apparently they were "conspiring with the British" because they crossed into a "no entry zone" by mistake. My grandmother said she heard they made a movie in Italy about her niece. I'm not sure if it exists though.)
Knowing this information now and being a Canadian myself, I have always felt like I owed them even more for what they had done. They obviously scarred the Germans out of that area because of the fighting and possibly saved my family members from death. The Germans were more than capable of holding that village and many civilians could have been killed easily in the fighting. Every Remembrance Day, I always make sure I show the veterans and soldiers all the respect and thanks I possibly can.
I have even taken a school day off to go and see the ceremonies personally and watched the veterans march. Old and young veterans were there, as they came out of the military base, everyone there followed the parade marching down to the monument. It was a beautiful thing to see, men who had fought in different wars were all marching together as one group with the public following them. It was so hard for me and others to hold back tears when they started to play the Last Post and Amazing Grace. I took pictures of that day, I filed them away though, so right now I can't find them but when I do I'll see if I can share them with you.
I wish I could do that more often but it's not always possible, I do my best though. I will never forget going to that event and I will try to do it regularly.
I'm just going to watch the ceremonies at my house on TV and participate in the moment of silence this time around. I'll go on with my day as usual but I will be thinking of the men who fought and died on both sides of the wars.
Here are my questions for you, have any of you guys been to an event like Remembrance Day or Veterans Day first hand?
If so, what was it like and how did you feel when you were there?
Even if you haven't been to such an event, how do you feel about events like Remembrance Day or Veterans Day?
What are you doing this time around for this type occasion, how are you remembering the veterans?
I would also like to give a big thank you to all the veterans and military men and women of all nations, this world of ours would be in a big mess if people like you hadn't stepped up to the plate and risked your lives in order to preserve freedom and security for all! We must all do our absolute best to respect these men and women, they do and have done so much for us!
It is our duty to remember and thank them all as much as it was and is their duty to serve and protect us! I will never forget the contributions and sacrifices you guys have made for us all!
Edit: Well, I watched the ceremonies today, it was such an emotional event for me as always. I was thinking about all the people in my family who had fought in past wars and battles like Vietnam, WWII and the Seige of Malta in 1565. When I looked at the veteran's faces, they had that "I went through hell and back" kind of look. I can't hide the fact that I started to feel a throbbing in my throat and I had to shed some tears.
Then I started thinking about my grandfathers, family members and friends who had fought on the axis side for the Italians against the allied forces during WWII. I want to say I'm sorry... I'm sorry that in a different time during our history, our countries, family members and friends had to fight and kill each other in such a horrible war. Naturally, that's how wars go, someone has to be on the other side, but I still feel sorry that had to happen.
I hope such unfortunate events never happen again.
Lest We Forget!
Here's some nice Remembrance Day/Veterans Day videos I found today:
YouTube - In Flanders Fields - Lest We Forget
YouTube - Ypres / Tyne Cot / Menin Gate - The Last Post Ceremony
YouTube - veterans day tribute
YouTube - Remembrance Day Soldier Cries (Soldier_Song)
YouTube - Remembrance Day Ottawa 2007 War Memorial