Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, November 11, 2005

After having a look at my friend's blog, I'm just kind of thinking that maybe I should say something, or at least acknowledge, that today is Rememberance Day. I have a few things to say abou it...many things, actually:

If there's one thing that I do like about Rememberance Day, it's that it's the only holiday that has yet to "go commercial." You don't see the greeting card stores selling Rememberance Day cards, store shelves aren't cluttered with "poppy candies" or anything like that. It is still a solemn and sacred day. And, given it's purpose, that's very much a good thing.

And people are still fighting to keep it from going commercial, too. I remember working at Extra Foods, I saw one of our cashiers have an all-out screaming match with the store manager about whether or not to have a 2-minutes silence at 11AM on Rememberance Day. Cashier was for it, store manager was against it. The cashier one, but we still grumbled under our breaths that Rememberance Day is one of the few holidays where everything should shut down.

Of course, had to watch the CBC's coverage of the ceremonies in Ottawa. I'd sure like to go to Ottawa someday, and see all those monuments and memorials for myself. I'm sure that we all know that the brand-new Canadian War Museum opened up this year. The old one was in dire need of replacement. While the old War Museum was a grand old building, it had grown ridiculously small...the museum was only able to display 2% of their collection. So, the new one was built. The final cost was $100 million and it took 2.5 years to build. But it's worth it to remember the sacrafices.

Here's a small part of today's Rememberance Day ceremonies that will probably be glossed over, but shouldn't be.

Today, the government dedicated the seventh Book of Rememberance.

For those who don't know, the Books of Rememberance are a series of hand-bound books commissioned by the government. They list the names of every Canadian soldier who's died in service. One of the books sits on display in the Peace Tower in Ottawa, and, every day (yes, EVERY DAY), there's a solemn ceremony in the House of Commons where the page is turned in the book.

This seventh book lists every Canadian soldier that's died from 1947 to the present.

My grandmother fought in World War II.

She was a corporal in the Royal Canadian Air Force. She was over in England for most of the war. I do know that a point of family pride has always been a photo of my Grandma being inspected by the Queen. You know, we've all seen it in the movies...all the troops line up in their dress uniforms, the Queen marches down the line looking over the uniforms, and, if you're lucky, you get to share a few words with the Queen:

Queen>> What's your name, soldier?
Soldier>> Private Mike Johnson.
Queen> Where you from?
Soldier>> A small town you never heard of.

My Grandma was one of those ones that the Queen spoke to.

I never got the whole story of my grandma's war service. When I was a kid, at her house one Rememberance Day, she took out her medals and wore them. She had at least 4 or 5. I asked about them, but she didn't want to say much. "I earned each and every one, and this is the only day I wear them," was all she'd tell me.

I do know the story of why she joined the military. Her family urged her to do it to get her away from "that good for nothing Cappis boy." Of course, she came back from the war, and settle down with that Cappis boy. Well, except these days, I call him Grandpa.

I don't feel right asking questions about my grandmother's military service. She passed away 10 years ago, but the issue of who gets her war memorabilia is still a very heated argument between my aunts and uncles. That, and my grandfather has a real mean-on for veterans. Why is a long and rather dull story that I won't get into here. So, asking about Grandma in the war always creates incredibly awkward moments.

But she fought so I could be free to sit down and write this today.

And that, I'll always remember.

And, with my mother's side of the family being German, they've got their war stories too. They were the civilians we were fighting to liberate, after all.

Not too long ago, my mother told me about my Great Opa. He died when I was 8 years old, I barely knew him. But a few months ago, my mother told me an interesting fact about him.

His birthday was May 6. But, he always celebrate his birthday on May 8 - more commonly known as VE Day, the day that World War II officially ended. He changed his birthday to May 8 on the original VE Day: May 8, 1945.

I asked my mother why he changed his birthday like that. "Because," she told me, "Like everyone else in the world, he was glad that the war was finally over."

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