To date, to Canadians, to Commemorate:
The Great War, the War to End All Wars, the First World War, World War I: 1914-1918
17 Main Players, et al…
This War started out one foot at the end of the Napoleonic period, and ended with the other firmly striding into modernity.
Note there were three empires – British, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman – this was their last knell.
But it did not end all wars, and merely set the tone for the next.
The Second World War, World War II: 1939-1945
35 Main Players, of whom many asserted their nationhood on the world stage, out of the shadow of their parent empire.
It was during this War, in Poland, that one grandfather was killed by the Nazis, at the age of 24. The other grandfather fought with the Polish partisans, and watched his best friend’s head get blown off by a sniper.
No more empires, but an attempt at empire-building, thankfully waylaid.
Attempts at extermination.
Affirmations that humans can be superbly evil; affirmations that humans can also be sublimely good.
The Korean War: 1950-1953
The UN had its first command at this particular theatre. The UN, sprung whole out of the minds of war-weary leaders, like Athena from the head of Zeus.
The Koreas are still at war; North Korea put a cross on the old Armistice a few years back anyhow. Air raid sirens toll periodically throughout Seoul to remind diligent citizens to be on edge.
We sent out sons and daughters as UN Peacekeepers, to Kashimir (1948), Cyprus (1974 to date), Congo (various, 1960 to date), Somalia, Yugoslavia (1992-2003) and Somalia (1993), making them live the horrors of war without being able to keep the peace.
The UN Peacekeepers were honoured with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Recognition, in the face of flying bullets, that can only be dodged, not returned.
Then there were the Iraq Wars, first (1990) and second (2003-2011), and then the Afghanistan War (2001-2014).
What does one say to something so recent. We always thought that our modern world was too civilized to have to deal with War, and, indeed, modern Wars seem far removed from our doorstep, here in Canada, in North America really.
We are not Europe, forced to deal with a wholly new kind of refugee crisis, one where the refugees are empowered by information and globalization.
And yet, I am so proud to support Canadian soldiers who are sent to deal with the kinds of people (can you call ISIS/ISIL that?) who think it perfectly acceptable to stone people, to hurl individuals from the roofs of multi-storey buildings, to decapitate persons, and to condone slavery. Somewhere, out in ISIL territory, some secret clan is gathering, trying to find out new ways of instilling fear and horror in the local populations and around the world.
I am glad that there are Canadians, and others, who are doing their damnedest, on our behalves, to stop the spread of such rabid fanaticism.
Lest we forgot the past, so that we can understand why we are doing what we are doing in the present, in our best effort to stave off potential horrors in the future.
And this it is that I say to all Canadian veterans, old and new, and to those Canadians still serving: thank you.