Everyone wants to belong.
When I was a schoolgirl, I was a Brownie. I dressed every Tuesday night in my starched brown cotton dress, pulled up my matching knee socks and tied my white and orange neckerchief properly under my chin (right over left and under – left over right and under) to achieve the precise square knot of the sharp-dressed Brownie.
Membership was a source of pride, as it was for my brothers who were members of their own Cub Packs.
Together, every year, my mother would ensure all of us were presentable in our pressed uniforms and ready to go on November 11. She talked and lectured and educated with words like: respect, community, remember and faith. We learned from her what it meant to serve and observe, to remember and honour.
I’m old enough that school children were still off school to observe the November 11 Remembrance Day services at the cenotaph in London. I’m also young enough to remember when the province amended the holiday schedule and put school children back in the classroom on Remembrance Day.
But at the cenotaph or in the classroom, I have very vivid memories of watching the veterans parade in to remember with youngsters their sacrificial service to Canada. They came in droves decades ago before age, infirmity and the steady march of time whittled their numbers. Even then I was awed by their faces and their long blue overcoats. I have always been blessed with a vivid imagination and a fascination with history, and could picture them trudging through fields in France and celebrating victory on British streets. And in my Brownie uniform, I was somehow akin to their brotherhood, honouring from a distance of time and peace.
Four decades on from those times, the reality is that veterans of The Great War are gone, and those who fought and served in the Second World War are also passing from our midst.
But the sad state of humanity continues to bring forth new generations of service personnel who have seen the ugliness of man’s inhumanity, and sometimes fall victim to the violence of war. They have continued to accept a sacrificial duty to protect us, and the way of life that was secured for us even a century ago.
This year, in the year we celebrate 150 years of the founding of Canada, November 11 falls on a weekend when many more could forgo the rigours of work schedules and personal lives, and make way to a local cenotaph. We are asked only for moments to remember what is made sacred for us every second of every day in this country. Freedom. Precious, profound and not won without a price of blood and tears, love and loss.
This year, find the place where you belong. At the cenotaph with a grateful heart that honours those who fought before, and those who continue to serve you today.