At the the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending the fighting in the Great War. At least, they called it the Great War, or “The War to End All Wars”. Today we just call it World War I, because even greater horrors followed.
My grandfather “Sam” (Crawford) fought in World War II, helping bring an end to the evil of Hitler and Nazi Germany. I think my grandfather would be disgusted today to see Nazis being referred to as “very fine people”. What did he fight for, if we are to casually welcome that evil back to the streets?
We can never forget the sacrifices those soldiers made. My grandfather survived and came home to raise a family with my grandmother. His brother wasn’t so lucky. He lived, but was injured in the trenches and he never walked right again.
I tend to think of the veterans and the soldiers of the present year round. My wife goes out of her way to thank veterans any time she sees one in uniform. I think of them every time I am free to write whatever I want to, in this great land of Canada. Had the Nazis won, there would be no freedom here. On November 11, at 11am, we have a moment of silence to honour all the soldiers from every war in which they fought and died for our freedom. That is an important tradition to keep. But I think we should think of them more often.
My grandfather rarely told war stories around the kids, but I do remember one night when he told my dad about looking up and seeing a Panzer tank coming. “I shit my pants,” he said and I think he was being truthful. Imagine those young guys — kids, really — in a country far from home, running from a tank. The bravery is awesome. I can’t even imagine.
My grandfather died (cancer) when I was too young to appreciate what he did. I knew he fought, and I got to watch him lay a wreath at the cenotaph every November 11. I didn’t understand the significance of what it means to be a soldier until I was older. If I were a little older, I would have tried to get him to tell me about it.
Bryan Adams’ 1987 album Into the Fire has the best song about Remembrance Day that I know. This very special track was made into an emotional music video. In 2014, The Trews came out with something almost as good: a song called “Highway of Heroes”. The Highway of Heroes is an actual highway (the 401), given this nickname for the stretch of road on which the bodies of fallen soldiers are brought home. The Trews’ song is a touching tribute.
Check out these two songs and remember why you’re even able to listen to them. Because of the Heroes.