Remembrance Day brings so many images and memories to mind. As a child, I was fascinated by a trio of pictures hanging in my great grandparents’ home. The first, a picture of my great grandfather in a military uniform, younger than I could ever imagine him being. The second, a formal, posed picture of his unit; serious young men, all neatly lined up in rows. The final frame held the medals he had received from his time of service in World War l. They were pictures we never talked about, but were in a place of honour so they could be seen as soon as you entered the room, or from any seat in their living room. It was only after he died I learned that so many of those young men never returned home, never grew any older than they were in that photo on the wall.
Other families have stories of relatives they never met, known only through stories told or photos on a wall. Perhaps a note on a family grave stone, with the details of where they died, or were buried overseas. Still others have relatives with stories of before and after, young men full of energy and mischief with a hopeful future who didn’t come back the same, who were forever changed by their experience of war.
We have seen the plaques and monuments with the lists of names in our churches, in our community spaces of those who volunteered, who answered a call to serve. Who took the words written in John’s gospel to heart: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NRSV) To go to places far away, to fight for those who were oppressed, to stand up for what was right and to respond to injustice.
Men and women continued to volunteer, to respond to conflicts and unrest, to be peacekeepers in places with no peace. To go into countries as a sign of stability and to places where governments were fragile. To be part of coalitions sent by a larger group of countries working together to offer aid and hope to places in need of both.
The rolls of those who served so faithfully and sacrificed so much are not complete. We continue to add more names of those who have stepped forward and gave everything in the service of others. There are even more who come home, forever changed by what they have seen, experienced and endured.
Remembrance Day is not the day to debate or pass judgement on the wars, conflicts, peacekeeping missions or coalitions forces our military have been involved with – those discussions are for other days.
On Nov. 11th, it is our duty, our privilege, and our responsibility to stand in silence and remember those who no longer stand with us. Who paid the ultimate price, who served so there could be peace and freedom.
“They shall grow not 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.”