Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

Today is Veteran’s Day in the US. In Canada, we refer to it as Remembrance Day. It’s a day to give thanks for the price paid for freedom. A day to reflect on what our freedom means to us, and how we can actively walk toward a future without war.

It’s a day of homage and sorrow, a day to repent and to rejoice.

My Great Uncle Robert served in WWII. He drove a tank. The average life expectancy for a tank driver was ninety days. Uncle Robert drove that tank from Africa to Italy for three and a half years.

He survived and lived to a good age. He rarely spoke of the war, even when asked. He would shake his head and look away. So when he did choose to talk about those dark and dangerous years, we listened.

He told us a story about how his boots saved his life.

The Canadian Army trained all recruits to tie their boots in a specific pattern as part of the uniform. This was drilled into them in boot camp and strictly enforced at all times. If a solider slacked off, he was immediately reprimanded. Uncle Robert was no exception. He learned to tie his boots as prescribed by the Canadian Army. Then he was sent to overseas to drive a tank.

Somewhere between Egypt and Turkey his troop stopped and made camp for the night. Uncle Robert was to take second watch. When it was his turn, he dressed and tied his bootlaces the Canadian way. He grabbed his gun and took up his watch.

It was too dark to see more than a foot in front of him, and he spent a couple of hours staring into the nothingness. As he stood on a small rocky outcrop he suddenly felt a knife at his throat. He had seen nothing, heard nothing, yet there he was, his life hanging on a thin blade. Uncle Robert knew who was behind him, knew it could only be a member of the famous Gurkha fighters, brave, highly trained men from India whose reputation for fearlessness, stealth, and strength were legendary.

The Gurkah solider held the knife at Uncle Robert’s throat and ran his hand down Robert’s leg. He felt the front of one of the boots. After a moment the blade left Uncle Robert’s throat and a man whispered, “Carry on Canada.” When Robert turned around the man had vanished without a trace as silently as he had come.

On this Remembrance Day, on this Veteran’s Day, we remember the ideals and the principles men and women fought and died for. We celebrate the lives given so that we can live in freedom.

As you honor the fallen, spend some time thinking about Uncle Robert’s bootlaces, the identifying factor that saved his life and ask yourself; what about me identifies me with hope, faith, and love? What defining factor in your life can people look at and know without doubt that you have peace, joy, and grace abiding in you?

As we honor and remember today, we invite you to share your stories of the heroes you know who fought for us all. We look forward to reading your stories of thankfulness.

Lest we forget.

11 comments:

Latayne C Scott said...

I love this post.

I am so committed to keeping such memories alive that I made sure both my children read the account of an elderly man in our congregation. He escaped from a Nazi POW camp and survived by hiding in a pile of chicken manure. He later saw the aftereffects of the concentration camps. Even though our children were in their early teens, I made them read what he'd written and reminded them, "If people tell you the concentration camps never happened, you tell them there's a man you know and love that saw them."

Stories are what keep memory alive. Long after this good man passes away, his story will live in the hearts of my children and guard them from untruths.

Isn't that what we're trying to do, to firmly implant truth through our stories?

Bonnie, you are the best!

Nicole said...

Thank you, Bonnie. I blogged a tribute today, too. Loved your Uncle Robert story so much. God bless them all.

Sharon K. Souza said...

This is a wonderful post, Bonnie. What an incredible story about your uncle ... and about the man in Latayne's church. It really is important that we keep these stories alive ... that we never fail to remember.

My dad, husband and son were all Marines. Both my brothers and my stepdad served in the Army. I'm so grateful for the sacrifice each one of them made. And to the ones who are making that sacrifice for us today. God bless and keep them.

Kathleen said...

Tying your boots correctly sort of like putting on the full armor? Fully dressed details do matter is what I'm taking away today. Thx.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I once overheard 2 elderly men in a restaurant and I shamelessly eavesdropped. One was telling the story of a man he knew who was a German officer during WWII. Like others, the officer was not fully aware of the horrors perpetrated on the Jews until he saw it firsthand from a train on his way to a hospital. He was shocked to see innocent families taken from the train and shot, and when he was well enough, he left the hospital and escaped into a neighboring country.

Stories also allow us to put a human face on an enemy - a luxury we can't always afford in times of war. A group of vets in our town has adopted an orphanage in Vietnam and go over regularly to work. It also helps them to find some closure.

Semper Fi to all the Marines today, my son included.

Bonnie Grove said...

I love these wonderful stories of passing down the truth about war, and finding the light in the midst of darkness.

It is wonderful to be able to pay tribute to the men and women who served in the past, and pray for they who serve today.

Pray for peace.

Steve G said...

Canada now has its Highway of Heroes. Repatriation of soldiers who died overseas fly in to Trenton, ON and are driven 100 miles to Toronto to a morgue. They have police escort, and at each of the some 80+ overpasses all kinds of people stand with flags and encouragement. Google it and you will be touched.

I have had the privilege of doing a few Remembrance Day services with members of the Legion the last few years. It has been a very deep thing for me.

Lest we forget.

Steve G said...

http://tiny.cc/mj6Fs

pat jeanne said...

Loved hearing your Uncle Robert's experience while serving his country during WWII, Bonnie.
I remember today my British father-in-law who served at Dunkirk, North Africa, Normandy and throughout Europe until peace was declared. He drove a tank, too. He left his bride of 2 months and they were separated for7 years.Thank you for your tribute to our men in the military. They have made great sacrifices. I long for that world in whiich war will be no more. Pat in Philadelphia.

Connie Reece said...

Bonnie, you had me on the edge of my seat with your story about your Uncle Robert! Like your uncle, mine seldom talked about his WWI experiences. Thank you for this post reminding us about the significance of this day.

Living in Texas, it's especially poignant after the Ft. Hood shootings. Hearing the silence during roll call when the name of one of the fallen was called -- oh, my. So moving.

Carla Gade said...

I like the name Rememberance Day.