Monday, October 23, 2017

Odes to Our Fallen

Sometimes Facebook can be hard on my head (and my heart).
This morning as I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I came across a blog post, Canada Doesn't Need Yet Another Military Memorial
The blog post was about Canada's War Memorials and referenced planning of the construction of the National Memorial to Canada's Mission in Afghanistan.
The author pontificated that war memorials and museums were part of the military's propaganda system.
"Why do we build monuments to war rather than to its absence?" he mused. (Engler, 2016)
And I, in turn, found my myself musing as to why some people are so obtuse.
War Memorials are not monuments to war, in fact, their purpose is quite the contrary.
They are built as a testament to the true cost of war.
And to remind us that we must never, ever forget that cost.
If you have ever had the privilege of visiting one of our War Memorials, you know how moving an experience it is.
Profoundly so
In Vimy, France, you can almost hear the haunting echo of artillery fire in the distance.
In St Julien, Belgium, if the wind blows just so, you can almost detect a faint pungent smell of chlorine gas in the air.
And at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, you might feel the dampness of a widow's tears caress your cheek.
At every war memorial, you will find it hard to breathe.
Your chest tight.
Heavy with loss.
And sacrifice.
And the sorrow of thousands and thousands of families.
And a grieving nation.
War Memorials do not glorify war.
They honour the sacrifice of all of those men and women in uniform who have given their lives in service to their nation.
Our nation.
Whether they served under the Canadian Red Ensign.
Or the Maple Leaf.
I am not a war widow. My husband did not die in battle on foreign soil far from home.
He died in a training accident on Canadian soil.
I am an accidental widow.
There was no glory in my husband's death.
There is no glory in any death, accidental or otherwise.
Instead, a crushing loss.
The weight of which our children and I will bear the rest of our lives.
War Memorials do not glamourize war, they are not odes to militarism.
They are odes to our fallen-- the men and women who lay down their lives so that we might live in a world where we are all free to write and express our opinions.
And where we are free to disagree.
Our National War Memorial honours my husband and all of the other courageous Canadians who came before and after him.
For our tomorrows they gave their today.
Let their names not be lost to the knowledge of our nation.
My husband's name was Dan.
And the widow's tears you felt standing at the National War Memorial? They might just be mine.

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