At this time of year many people don red poppies to symbolize remembrance of all who fought in the wars – those who lost their lives and those who did come home.
On a personal level I wear a poppy every year for the veterans I don’t know and the one that I do – my paternal grandfather. He lived well into his 80’s, never sharing a word about his experiences in battle with me. We found various medals after he passed, my brother and I donating them to a local war museum, never really understanding what they signified. Well after his death and my father’s death I learned Grandpa had fought and survived The Battle Passchendaele. Late summer 1917, the British initiated a number of failed assaults against German forces who occupied the ridge overlooking the city of Ypres, Belgium. The battlefield became a swamp. Canadian forces arrived in October. For 2 weeks, all 4 Canadian divisions took turns attacking the Passchendaele ridge – the gains being only a few hundred metres each day, while many died. Rain and shellfire were continuous, the conditions horrendous. Troops were crowded into rain-filled mortar holes and became disoriented in the muddy landscape, unaware of where the front line actually was. They captured the Passchendaele ridge at a cost of almost 16,000 casualties, sad when the area was abandoned by the enemy less than a year later.
I am grateful he survived as some of my great uncles did not. If he had died on the battle field my family would not exist. My father would not have been born, nor I. When I think of it that way I am overwhelmed with the impact war has, and grieve for the lost possibilities of what might have been for so many families.
Let’s remember the sacrifice of so many in the past and so many in the present and hope we can learn from those lessons as a global society and eradicate war.
Who are you grateful for, whether from war or every day?