Age shall not weary them

South Shore Breaker - - Page Two - VERNON OICKLE THE VIEW FROM HERE

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years con­demn.

At the go­ing down of the sun and in the morn­ing, we will re­mem­ber them.

These words, spo­ken ev­ery Nov. 11 on Remembrance Day, carry a deep and pow­er­ful mes­sage.

Filled with raw emo­tion and angst, these 36 words from the poem, For the Fallen, writ­ten by Lau­rence Binyon, suc­cinctly cap­ture and con­vey the true cost of war, par­tic­u­larly the con­flicts that rav­aged the world dur­ing the first half of the last cen­tury.

Dur­ing the First World War (1914-1918), about 650,000 Cana­di­ans served over­seas, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force. These were Cana­di­ans and New­found­lan­ders who served with Bri­tish forces (New- found­land was a colony of Great Bri­tain un­til 1949) and mer­chant mariners.

Of this number, nearly 69,000 made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice, giv­ing their lives in the bat­tle against the op­pres­sive forces that threat­ened the en­tire world. In the Sec­ond World War (1939-1945), more than one mil­lion Cana­di­ans and New­found­lan­ders served in Canada’s Armed Forces, in Al­lied forces or in the mer­chant navy. More than 47,000 of them gave their lives. Dur­ing the Korean War (1950-1953), 26,791 Cana­di­ans served in the Cana­dian Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Forces Com­mand and 516 died.

These sta­tis­tics, as star­tling as they are, do not ac­count for the hun­dreds of Cana­dian peace­keep­ers who have served and died around the world since 1953. In fact, even to­day, thou­sands con­tinue to put them­selves in harm’s way to de­fend democ­racy and to fight for those who are be­ing op­pressed.

And in 2011, we marked an­other his­toric event in the his­tory of Cana­dian mil­i­tary ser­vice as the coun­try’s mil­i­tary role in the Afghanistan war came to an end af­ter 10 years of com­bat. The number of Cana­dian Armed Forces fa­tal­i­ties re­sult­ing from Cana­dian mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties in Afghanistan is the largest for any sin­gle Cana­dian mil­i­tary mis­sion since the Korean War. A to­tal of 158 Cana­dian Armed Forces mem­bers lost their lives in ser­vice while par­tic­i­pat­ing in our coun­try’s mil­i­tary ef­forts in Afghanistan.

For­mal records may re­veal the size and strength of armies, mil­i­tary strat­egy and the out­come of bat­tles, but sta­tis­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion only tells part of the story. Such in­for­ma­tion is vi­tal to un­der­stand­ing and re­mem­ber­ing these im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal events, yet to fully ap­pre­ci­ate mil­i­tary his­tory, we must try to un­der­stand the hu­man face of war.

Loss of com­rades, ex­treme liv­ing con­di­tions, in­tense train­ing and fear as well as men­tal, spir­i­tual and phys­i­cal hard­ships, il­lus­trate what the in­di­vid­ual sailor, soldier and air­man ex­pe­ri­enced in bat­tle. Thou­sands of Cana­di­ans fought valiantly on bat­tle­fronts around the world and thou­sands died. They were pre­pared to face any or­deal for the sake of freedom.

On the home­front as well, Cana­di­ans were ac­tive as mu­ni­tions work­ers, as civil de­fence work­ers, as mem­bers of vol­un­tary ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions and as or­di­nary ci­ti­zens do­ing their part for the war ef­fort.

In May 1945, vic­tory in Europe be­came a re­al­ity and mil­lions cel­e­brated VE-DAY (Vic­tory in Europe Day). Still ahead lay the fi­nal en­counter with Ja­pan. Then, on Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, a sec­ond bomb de­stroyed Na­gasaki.

On Aug. 14, 1945, the Ja­panese ac­cepted the Al­lied terms of un­con­di­tional sur­ren­der and the Sec­ond World War was over.

The hard-fought end to the Sec­ond World War came with an enor­mous price. It’s a debt that to­day’s gen­er­a­tion must con­tinue to pay. We owe it to the men and women who served, to those who fought in the trenches and on the seas. Most im­por­tantly, we owe it to the brave men and women who gave their lives to en­sure the freedom that we all en­joy and take for granted.

While Nov. 11 is set aside ev­ery year to re­mem­ber the past sac­ri­fices so many have made over the years, it’s a good time to also con­tem­plate what our world would be like if war and strife did not ex­ist.

In an ideal world, wars would not ex­ist so our brave men and women would not have to put them­selves in harm’s way. How­ever, as his­tory has shown us, this is not a per­fect world. War has ex­isted for cen­turies and, sadly, it ap­pears as though it will be with us well into the fu­ture.

This Nov. 11 is es­pe­cially sig­nif­i­cant, as it will mark 100 years since the First World War ended. This first global con­flict had claimed an es­ti­mated 13 mil­lion lives and caused un­prece­dented dam­age and was sup­posed to be the war to end all wars. Clearly, it wasn’t. Ger­many had for­merly sur­ren­dered on Nov. 11, 1918 and all na­tions had agreed to stop fight­ing while the terms of peace were ne­go­ti­ated. On June 28, 1919, Ger­many and the Al­lied na­tions signed the Treaty of Ver­sailles, for­mally end­ing the war.

Our world would be a lot dif­fer­ent to­day were it not for the brave men and women who stood up to those who would do us harm. Surely, we can all set aside a few hours on this com­ing

Sun­day to say thank you for their sac­ri­fices. Too many fought and died for us to ever for­get.

Sac­ri­fices made by those Cana­di­ans must not be for­got­ten, but Nov. 11 is more than a day of remembrance. It’s also a day to say thanks or at least, that’s the view from here.

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