Column: Remembrance Day isn’t just another holiday

Remember those who fought for our freedoms but also those who continue to protect them

Every year I go to a Remembrance Day ceremony with my family. We’ve done this at home but also in Australia and once or twice in the USA.

When I go, I always make sure I’m wearing sunglasses as the music and moment of silence always moves me to tears. I feel the presence of my late father who served overseas in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War.

Memories of him come to the forefront and bring back thoughts of a chest of drawers that sat at the top of the stairs in the house where I grew up. The bottom drawer was jam-packed with my dad’s wartime pictures, ribbons, and mementos.

Myself, along with my brothers and sisters, would rummage through it but Dad never answered our questions — it was clear he didn’t want to talk about it.

I had other family members serve during the wars and the idea of them in the cold bone-chilling dampness or life-threatening situations reminds me of how much was sacrificed by so many.

The least I can do is have a moment of silence and respectfully allow the wreaths to be laid.

This year on Nov. 11, I invite you to pause for a short moment to remember the many who not only fought for our freedoms but also for those who continue to protect them.

I’d like to acknowledge the groups and individuals who don’t get enough recognition. The RCMP and various municipal and/or provincial police units, firefighters, paramedics, ER nurses, doctors and any other front-line first responders. These men and women show up every day for us — not only to protect but also to defend our freedom.They are the ones who run into the burning buildings, that hold the hand of someone who is wounded, attend to us in our homes when we call — they need to be remembered too.

My grandfather was a gunner in the First World War. He returned home with what was then called shell shock. He lost his hearing because of the explosive noise of shelling. He also lost himself in a way that he was never again his normal self.

It’s what we now refer to as being post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD and it’s real.

Many years ago, a cop friend of mine told me that people didn’t understand the job of an officer, and until you’ve held a dying child in your arms at a traffic accident they never could.

Trauma and stress are real. It saddens me to recognize the fact that many officers commit suicide as a result of facing such extreme ugliness in the line of duty.

One such example is the death of RCMP officer Ken Barker, aged 51, who investigated the greyhound beheading in Manitoba. How can anyone reconcile such experiences and continue uninterrupted in civilian life?

By knowing that these caring men and women are in our community doing the heroic work we feel safer. They’re on our side. They protect our freedoms and serve selflessly. They deserve to be recognized.

Nov. 11 is not simply another holiday squeezed between Halloween and Christmas.

You can still sleep in and enjoy the day off but the meaning need not be lost as you go about your daily life.

Please, just pause, remember, and say a silent thank you.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan.

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