An important day of discomfort

By Vivian Collings

I will likely only use the adjectives favourite and sad, together, to describe one noun: Remembrance Day.

It has always been one of my favourite days. It has also, naturally, always been one of the saddest days.

It’s not a particularly enjoyable day; it’s actually pretty uncomfortable to feel such a collective sadness, but, it’s one of my favourites because it’s important. It’s special.

It’s a national memorial day observed in the entire Commonwealth to honour members of the armed forces.

But, to everyone within those countries, it’s also much more personal than that.

Everyone likely either knows someone, has a family member, or has perhaps even served themselves, in the armed forces.

With it being a collective day of mourning and remembrance, we all have individual people that we will be thinking of during the moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Friday.

For my whole childhood, my dad was a staff officer with the local army cadet corps. Every Remembrance Day, he would put his grandfather, my great-grandfather’s, medal from the Second World War in the pocket of his uniform, covering his heart.

My great-grandfather was part of the Home Guard in England during the Second World War. I never got to meet him, but my grandpa, his son, lived through the war in England during that time. He remembers explosives and weapons being stored on their family farm and participating in air raid drills at school.

Can you imagine?

I recently saw my other grandparents, and we spoke about Remembrance Day.

My grandpa said, “It’s such an important day, but it’s sad. Really sad.”

He explained how his great-grandfather served in the trenches of the First World War, and then his father went on to become a truck driver for almost the entirety of the Second World War.

When his dad returned home in 1945, my grandpa met him for the first time as an almost four-year-old.

Speaking to local veterans over the past week, I’m also overwhelmed with respect for their resilience.

For those of us today who haven’t experienced war or conflict, I think it’s important to welcome discomfort on Nov. 11.

It feels like the least we can do.

I joined Army Cadets when I was 12, so I got to march with my dad in the Haliburton Remembrance Day Parade for the proceeding five years. 

I have to admit that as a teenager, I definitely grumbled on the years that the temperature was around freezing.

I needed reminding then, so he would tell me to think about what soldiers in the World Wars had to endure as I stood on Highland Street in the cold.

I know I will, hopefully, never fully understand the relentless distress of war, but my temporary discomfort always gave me necessary perspective.

I’m not in cadets anymore, and my dad has retired as a staff officer, but I still make sure I attend a Remembrance Day service wherever I am, and I know my dad will, too, with that medal in his pocket.

If you’re able, I hope you attend a service on Nov. 11, too.

We get to live our regular lives every day because of the unfathomable things previous generations endured and fought.

Let’s make sure to wear our poppies this week and embrace the discomfort we feel to remember and thank those people.