ONE VETERAN'S VIEW OF REMEMBRANCE DAY

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ONE VETERAN'S VIEW OF REMEMBRANCE DAY

Post by Accer on Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:53 am

To the vast majority of Canadians, Remembrance Day connotes an annual occasion featuring solemn soldiers, standing ceremonial guard at a local cenotaph, where natty notables gravely place their wreaths of faux flowers, and preening politicians pose for pictures, as the mournful bugle notes of " The Last Post" are sounded, plus a piper's plaintive lament. . Then follows the traditional two minutes of silence, during which we are meant to think kindly and sadly of those countless, courageous Canadians, who fought and died in answer to their country's call, to protect our free and democratic way of life.


Those in attendance then briskly break off from this brief communal ceremony of collective conscience, to go about their daily duties, without much, if any, additional thought to the dead (not to mention those left living), of its country's conflicts, until the same time next year, when the identical, almost robotic routine is repeated, without real regard for the true significance of the Remembrance commemoration, during the remaining twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes of that iconic day, let alone the three hundred and sixty-four days which follow. That is not real Remembrance.....it is only paying lip service to the service of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.


As for me, I commemorate Remembrance Day, privately and personally, every day of every year, by recalling and contemplating two ineradicable experiences, during my service in World War Two, which I have never been able to separate from my soul, nor, despite their horrendous ramifications, do I really wish to shed myself of them, for they are an intrinsic part of my very being.


The first such etched event was the saddening death of my closest companion and battlefield comrade-in-arms, Lieut. William E. ("Bill") O' Donnell, who was killed in action, not far from my position, in Germany, during the waning days of World Two. We met and bonded during our bruising battle course , became fast friends, swore to serve together, witnessed each other's wills, and vowed to visit the other's family, should one not return home. . Sadly, that dire duty fell to me. To this day, I keep a framed photo of Bill in whatever digs I dwell, and faithfully bring it with me to every military-oriented ceremony I attend, where I proudly parade his presence, beside me. I miss and remember my best wartime friend, every day of every year. That , to me, is my Remembrance Day.


The second soul-searing episode occurred, when I led my platoon to take and hold a particular railroad crossing. After doing so, I positioned my men in the surrounding embankments , where we were suddenly blasted by a very heavy artillery barrage, which pinned us down, totally exposed and vulnerable to its relentless, destructive force. I very soon realized that this shelling was coming from our own guns, and called back to my Company Headquarters to put an immediate stop to this unintentional and misdirected, yet devastating "friendly fire". Unfortunately, my field phone had broken down. and I was forced to watch , helplessly, and in utter frustration, as a number of my men were grievously wounded and several killed, until the bombardment finally ceased. My inescapable sense of personal responsibility for having assigned my men to that position, and the overwhelming guilt at my total helplessness and inability to have better protected them from harm, let alone extricate them from that hellish hail of furious fire, engulfed me there and then, , and have stayed with me every damned day since. That, to me, is also my Remembrance Day.


Nor will I ever neglect to remember or respect the countless other fallen, who, while unknown to me, remain an integral part of my identity as a Veteran, on this and every other day, during which i will always grant them the dignity of more than two mere and measly minutes of rushed recognition, in obeisance to political correctness and social propriety.


I have decidedly mixed feelings about exposing these experiences, that I have been loth to share even with my own family, but I concluded that if doing so will, in any way, contribute to the increased and proper public tribute to our fallen, then portraying my personal problems, is a paltry price to pay.


I am only too sure that there are many thousands of you Vets "out there", with matching memories.


We cannot regulate rightful Remembrance, but our citizenry certainly could, and indeed should, make it count for far more than just going through the mere motions. Our dead defenders deserve the fullest degree of our dedication and devotion, from those whose lives are today full and free, due to their sacrifice.


Lieut. (Ret'd.) Wolf William Solkin
Ste. Anne's Hospital
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Accer
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