Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remembering to Stand

This time of year is always a mixed bag of emotions for me and this year is no different. I feel pride, sadness, patriotism, grief and hope. I am overcome by the depth of sacrifice strangers are willing to make to protect freedom and ensure justice for people they will never know; I am amazed at how they can use words like duty and honour in the face of danger and death and I am humbled that they have given their all for me and my children and my children's children.

We have a strong connection to the military in our family. Mr. Awesome's dad and both grandfathers have served and my grandfather and uncle have also served and I have a cousin who is currently serving. I know the heartache and pride military families experience ... willingly. That's what gets to me. All the sacrifice, danger, injury and death is made willingly. They choose to put the greater good ahead of their own wants and needs. They choose to risk everything in hopes of bringing security and freedom to others. They choose to stand when running would be so much easier.

My grandfather rarely spoke of his time in the army; I only ever had one or two conversations with him about the actual experience of 'storming the beach'. His regiment was at Dieppe, they sailed across the English Channel in the predawn hours toward the unknown. Their hope was to launch a sneak attack, their reality was very different. Bad weather and poor communication had many of the men from my Papa's regiment, The South Saskatchewan Regiment, land on the wrong side of the river, increasing the risk to their safety and success.

His regiment was in France for less than 8 hours on August 19, 1942 but the losses they suffered were astronomical. They retreated in a chaos of bullets, explosions and cries of pain. Many of the wounded never made it off the beach despite the best efforts of the few in tact soldiers who made repeated trips between the beach and the boats, hauling as many wounded men as they could.

I asked my grandfather once how he did it, how he could keep moving, keep soldiering with bullets flying and death everywhere he looked. He didn't say anything for a long while and then he spoke.

"You just don't have a choice. Either you keep standing and moving forward or you die. I didn't want to die so I just kept moving." I find that more true these days then ever before ... either you choose to stand and keep moving forward or you choose to lay down and die. Putting it that way, its a no brainer.

Tomorrow, as our family gathers to remember all those who risked every thing, every time for freedom, justice and hope, I will think of my grandfather, standing on the beach of Dieppe. I will think of the raining artilery, the smell of death in the air and the sounds of war and fear filling his ears, I will think of him standing and moving forward. In the moment of silence tomorrow, I will think of how he made his choice to stand when there was anything but silence surrounding him ... and I will follow his lead. I will choose to stand and keep moving forward.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon

For a full account of what the men of SSR faced that fateful day see An Exercise in Sacrifice

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