This year is the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, and today, Remembrance Day, is set aside for remembering heroes. Supposedly, WWI was”The War to End All Wars”.
As we know, the shattering truth was, it was not the last brutal slaughter of young people the world would see, and truly, I can’t say I believe there will ever be a time when people will cease fighting.
Today, November 11th, Remembrance Day in Canada, and Veteran’s Day in the USA, we all must take a moment to remember and give thanks to all those who have fought on our behalf for the freedom that we too often take for granted.
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the major hostilities of WWI came to an end.
My husband Steve and I were blessed to have one child, Julian, who is 23. Before I gave birth, I never imagined I could ever love another human being as completely and as purely as this young man, and I can’t begin to imagine how I could ever let him go off to war.
Honouring the parents and families of those who fought and those who were lost
So today, I also honour the parents and families of the dead young men and women, who were loved and cherished by their families, just as we treasure our child. The families endured an unimaginable sacrifice and emotional agony by sending their children, the vast number of whom were barely past childhood, to be slaughtered to fight what are essentially human traits of greed and megalomania.
Last year, Steve, Julian and I went to France to Normandy to visit the sites of the D-Day landings of WWII: the Canadian landing site of Juno Beach, the British landing sites of Gold and Sword Beaches, where Steve’s father landed on D-day+3, and the American site of Omaha Beach….
….and to Vimy Ridge, near the Belgian border, which was the site of a strategic victory for Canada in WWI.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Canadian or American family (or almost any nationality for that matter), who doesn’t have one relative who served in either WWI or WWII or any of the wars that followed, switching sides among families and battles. It’s a horrific legacy that humanity has handed its children.
War in every family history
In researching personal history, I found these photos:
My grandfather inscribed the back:
Rishon Le Zion, Palestine, Feb 5, 1919. Four “Canadian” Legionnaires dressed in waterproofs ready for a rain or sand storm. These are also used as ground sheets to sleep on in the tent. Also can be made into small bivouac tents used while on a long march by fastening two together with 2 sticks and 6 pegs. This makes a temporary covering for 2 men. These sheets are also used as a bath tub by digging a hole in the ground cover and lining it with the rubber sheet and filling up with water.”
Steve’s grandfather, Mario Uzielli, was a German army officer in WWI when he married Valerie Lust, a German Jew. An antiquarian by profession, Mario sold his business to his partner and left Germany with Valerie and their two children, Gabriella and Claude (Steve’s father), in 1936 and settled in Switzerland.
During the war, Mario and Valerie sent their 15-year-old son Claude to England to live with an uncle, Julian (after whom our son is named), who mentored and guided him so that he ultimately joined the British army and fought against the Germans. He remained in England until the 1950’s when he and his wife (Steve’s mother) Mary and 2 daughters Clare and Veronica, emigrated to Canada. Steve was born in Canada.
Steve and I are so lucky to have had our grandfathers and father survive the atrocities that occured in both World Wars, but so many were not so lucky. So today, I’d like to honour their memories, with the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.
Listen to it here:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Last year I posted about our trip to Normandy and Vimy in remembrance, with a video of a descent into a tunnel at what was then the front at Vimy. I invite you to read that post which you can find here and take a few moments to truly imagine the fear, loneliness and longing for home those young people experienced, to remember and thank them so they will not have died in vain.
To see more about Normandy, you can find that post here.
Hug your loved ones tight tonight.