Sometimes we celebrate the war dead.
Sometimes we honour the war dead.
But these days, we - that is to say, those Canadians who deeply care about those
soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice -are increasingly finding ourselves in a
position in which we must defend the war dead.
This is a perverse scenario. Yet, in recent years, cultural vandals have engaged
in all manners of ideological warfare - from the war on Christmas to the war on
Halloween. Disturbingly, a new target has emerged in their crosshairs: the war
on Remembrance Day. The progressive foot soldiers of this war are armed with
naivety and self-loathing. And they wear their ignorance like a badge of honour.
Examples abound. Some folks have taken to wearing white poppies. Not only do
these people misappropriate a semi-sacred symbol, but they mock what it stands
for, claiming there can be no such thing as a just war and that all armed conflict is
If The Greatest Generation subscribed to that way of thinking some 70 years ago,
most of Europe would be conversing in German today. In this regard, it is fitting
those so-called "alternative" poppies are white - the same colour as the flag of
Then there are those who simply can't be bothered to wear any sort of poppy, due
to warped new-age ideology blended with good old-fashioned ingratitude.
These critics scoff at November 11th, interpreting Remembrance Day as being
a day in which militarism is glorified. They believe that if we could all just sit
cross-legged in a healing circle and talk things out, hassles would be a thing of the
past. But there's no tangible benefit in "flower power" when it comes to dealing
with those tyrants and terrorists who are hell-bent on everything from invasion to
Such thinking isn't merely wrong or offensive. It's downright vulgar.
Indeed, when I think of the lunatic fringe that chooses not to respectfully
remember Remembrance Day, I think of my late grandfather who sacrificed five
years of his life fighting in the Second World War. In the 1960s, I was a kid who
grew up reading war comics and watching afterschool reruns of The Rat Patrol.
And I used to deeply resent the fact that my grandfather was so damn miserly when
it came to sharing stories about his real-life wartime exploits in Egypt and Italy.
"C'mon - tell me a war story, Pop!" I'd plead.
I wanted to hear of machineguns blazing and grenades exploding and bad guys
being blown to smithereens. And upon each request, my grandfather would shrug,
saying he really didn't have any good wartime yarns whatsoever.
I reckoned this to be a crock, because I had once stumbled upon a small,
nondescript cardboard box in the linen closet that contained my grandfather's
medals. And damnit, he sure didn't earn those medals by making hot chocolate.
Amazingly, my friends told me that their grandfathers were also unforthcoming
with tales of wartime heroics, too. It was downright confounding. After all, comic
book publishers and Hollywood made war look so damn cool. Why wouldn't our
grandfathers share their stories?
In fact, all I can ever remember my grandfather saying about the war were two
One: In his estimation, Sikhs were - by far - the very best soldiers on the planet.
He told me the Sikh soldiers he came in contact with were absolutely fearless
warriors who embraced the proviso of "death before dishonour." He saw many of
them die on the battlefield in what were essentially suicide missions. And yet, not
a single one of these soldiers ever questioned his orders or deserted his unit. Even
though their loyalty came with an enormous price-tag, there was still something so
very endearing about men embracing such dedication to duty.
The second story was anything but a military conquest steeped in glory. Rather,
it centred on a stupid, deadly accident. Marching in the Sahara, my grandfather's
unit noticed a low-flying American bomber aircraft passing overhead. The soldiers
began to wave at their ally in the sky. But much to their horror, the plane's bomb
bay doors creaked open and ordinance plummeted to earth. The soldiers made a
run for cover. When the dust settled, a sergeant - who my grandfather described
as "very short and very unpleasant" - had a piece of shrapnel lodged firmly in
his helmet. He had died instantly. Although the sergeant was a highly unlikable
individual, my grandfather nevertheless always seemed bothered that a man could
perish in such a completely senseless way.
It was after my grandfather died years later that I began to comprehend his
aversion to reciting war stories. Despite what Hollywood fare would have you
believe, war is seldom glorious. Rather, it's a very messy, very deadly kind of
business, one in which only the Grim Reaper benefits.
I don't think the new-age peaceniks would ever be able to understand my
grandfather and his ilk - men who went to war not because they wanted to but
because they had to.
What the anti-poppy crowd doesn't get is that the biggest advocates for peace are
indeed war veterans. They experienced firsthand the horror that is war and fully
know war is only undertaken when all else fails.
Our soldiers gave so much. We have benefited so much.
Is it really too much to ask that on this day we don a little crimson flower to
honour these giants before they fade away forever?