When I was 15 I was lucky enough to go with some people from my school, on a tour of Canada’s battlefields. We started out in Paris and ended in Amsterdam (where we did a tour of the “red light district” which for a 15 year old girl is NOT much fun, I can’t say the same about the boys…). We went several famous battle sites such as Gold beach, Dieppe, and Vimy Ridge, we even saw where John Mcrae wrot,e possibly the most famous Remembrance day poem of all, “Flanders Fields”. But for as many battle sites that we went to, we saw just many graveyards. One of the people with our group found her great grandfather… she was able to honor him by putting flowers on his grave. We went to some of the German grave sites as well, the headstones were all black, and we were told that they used mass graves so, under each headstone were more than 1 set of remains, I don’t remember seeing any names there.
The thing about being over there is the war felt so fresh… there were still craters in the land from bombs, now grown over with plant life, but one can only imagine the destruction they originally caused. We saw a tree, at a battle site I can’t remember the name of, where three of the few survivors from the Newfoundland regiment fought til the battle was over, they made it the farthest. I was told that every year around ten farmers die from plowing over old landmines. The war is still killing people. I remember on our first day in Paris an elderly man who asked us about our tour said “Thank you for liberating us” it didn’t mean much to me at the time.
Once I was privileged enough to meet a veteran who fought for Germany, I say privileged because he was forced to fight, against his belief, to save his family, as where many others. He showed me his medals and said something along the lines of (I’m taking some poetic license because I can’t remember the exact words) “I’d give these back for the lives of the men I ended” I know of some other soldiers from other sides who’d say the same, maybe they all would.
I could go on, but I know all of us already has some connection to the wars. Today is a day to pay respect to that, to remember everyone who fought (I do mean everyone) and gave there lives for a greater good.
This is a song that means a lot to me today, its initially about a different war, and a different time, but I think it works well for today.