I am conflicted about this upcoming Sunday, November 11.  Two very important matters occur at the same time and I can’t really do both to the level I want to do them.  I want to go to the local cenotaph and pay my respects to not only the Canadian war dead, but all men and women who have died in the service of their country trying to bring peace and freedom for all.  But I also am a churchman committed to meeting on the first day of the week as is the tradition of Christians since the times of Jesus.  I don’t want to compromise, I want to do both.

When I was a boy growing up in Northern Ontario November 11 was not a holiday.   We would cease our classes on that day around 10:30 am and walk together as a school to the small Cenotaph in our town.  At 11 am the Vets would march in order over to the Cenotaph wearing berets, blue blazers, and a poppy on their lapel.  A local minister would read a prayer, a band would play, often planes would fly overhead in formation, we’d observe a minute of silence and then there would be a gun salute.  Finally, mothers would lay a wreath to remember their son(s) who never made it home.

It was a solemn important day.  I knew that as a child.  The reason I knew it was because for one day a year, my dad would allow himself to be identified as a soldier.  He never talked about WW II.  He’d been an engineer in the Canadian forces.  His task was bridge building in France.  He saw a lot, maybe some of it was good but most of it must have been bad.  He refused to talk about it.  He’d been injured in a bomb blast and spent the last 6 months of the war in a hospital in Scotland.

Over the years he never went to the Legion.  In his opinion all they did there was drink beer and tell lies about how much fun they’d had in the army.  In my dad’s mind war was necessary but it was an admission of defeat.  If you had to go to war to settle your differences then you’ve already lost something.  You’ve lost diplomacy. To him, war “was hell”.

But, in respect for those that lost their lives fighting for a true freedom, he would march with other soldiers.  He would stand and salute.  He would go to the Legion for a beer.  But for 364 other days of the year, not a word.

Since then, as an adult, I have continued that practice started in childhood.  My wife and I go and stand quietly.  We do it for my dad, but we do it for all soldiers who have given of their lives.  The supreme sacrifice.  It’s funny but you see these old vets nowadays, who for 364 days a year slump and shuffle along.  But for 15 minutes on one day a year, they are young and alive again.

And I am proud of them.

And oh yeah, I am a Baptist minister. I am supposed to be in church on Sunday mornings leading the people of God.  I am conflicted this Sunday…

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