I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Canada Games Centre today.
It was beautiful and moving as usual but, for some reason, it was the first time I didn’t cry in almost 55 years while attending the ceremony. Maybe it’s because my dad passed away six years ago. While he was alive, he would sit all day in front of the TV on November 11, and watch every Remembrance Day program, crying Ã‰ he could never attend an official Remembrance Day ceremony in public. He would get too upset. He wasn’t even able to go to the Legion.
My dad enlisted in the Second World War when he was 18 and came back at 23 after serving during all of the war. He saw his best friend get blown to bits right next to him. He was taken prisoner in Germany and put in jail. He drove a food truck to concentration camps for the Red Cross when it was all over. He received several medals for his efforts.
My dad saw and experienced many bad things during the Second World War. He came back to Canada a damaged man who usually refused to speak of his wartime experiences unless he’d been drinking. Then, he’d cry and get very upset.
All of his life, my dad fought with the war demons he brought back with him. We all suffered for it. He died at 82. That was a long time to carry the bad memories that haunted him.
That’s why I am writing this letter.
My dad was francophone and Metis. It would have been nice to hear two or three sentences spoken in French from any of the speakers at today’s ceremony, thanking all the men and women who have gone to war. After all, this is a bilingual country. I looked around and could identify at least 12 or 13 people whose mother tongue is French.
Then I looked around some more and saw many First Nation people. They, too, might have liked to hear a sentence or two spoken in one of the Yukon’s First Nation languages. We know that First Nations sure didn’t get much recognition or perks that other veterans got when they came back from the Second World War, despite their active duty.
After the ceremony, I came home and started getting lunch ready, missing my dad and thinking about his wartime experiences. I was writing a letter in my head to your newspaper about the Remembrance Day ceremony.
I turned on CBC Radio 1 and there was a special program on “memory and remembrance.”
I listened absentmindedly until Peter, the radio host, put on a song by Claude Dubois, a French Canadian singer/writer. I started to cry.
Peter had the sensitivity to play Dubois’ song during his English CBC Remembrance Day program, thus including French Canadians in this important event. Peter remembered that Remembrance Day is for all Canadians. I felt the day belonged to me, and to my dad.
Peter, thank you! You made a sad and difficult time better for me.
For those who will be organizing next year’s Remembrance Day, you might want to include at least one French-speaking person and someone from Yukon’s First Nations in remembrance of all those who fought in any war and their families.
They deserve as much. I, for one, would really appreciate it.