Notes from the Nest
Last Saturday, I spent about two and a half hours, standing in front of our local LCBO and Metro stores, conducting a completely, unscientific survey. I spoke with 56 people, from youngsters to senior citizens, as I posed my series of questions about Remembrance Day, it’s significance, how its marked and its continued relevance today.
When the guns were finally silent at 11 a.m., on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, in 1918 and the ensuing treaty of Versailles was signed, Allied leaders at the time were hopeful, it would be a safeguard against future, devastating conflicts. Some even proclaimed it, “the war to end all wars.” Oh, if only that was so.
I’m sure the veterans of the Second World War, the Korean War, the Gulf conflict and Afghanistan wars and peacekeepers who have continued to fight for freedom and a more peaceful world, wish it were so too. This year marks one hundred years, since the end of the first world war and with so many screens full of information in front of us each day, I was curious about just how many people were aware of that.
It turns out that 30 of the people I asked were not aware of the date’s pertinence. The 14-25-year-old group, was the least aware but only half of the 45-65-year old group, knew a century had passed since the end of the first, great war. Over 65 million personnel, participated in the conflict and over 9,750,000 died as a result, staggering numbers even today!
The last living veteran of that war was Florence Green of Great Britain, who was in the RAF. She died in 2012, at the amazing, supercentenarian age of 110. Harry Patch, also a British citizen, was the last veteran who served in the trenches. He died at age 111, in 2009.
Canada’s last surviving veteran, John Babcock, died at age 109, on Feb. 18, 2010. Babcock was originally recruited, in nearby Sydenham, at age 15. He attempted to serve then, until it was discovered he was underage. At age 16, he ended up in Liverpool, England with the Young Soldiers Battalion, where he trained recruits. The war ended before he could serve on the front lines.
I’m pleased to report 56 out of 56 people overwhelmingly and enthusiastically felt marking Remembrance Day is still extremely important. I was particularly moved by a shy but lovely, 7-year-old girl, who told me what her school does for Remembrance Day. She told me how important it was, “because the soldiers died in the war.”
I quizzed people, about how or if they plan to observe Remembrance Day in some way. 24 of those I asked, plan to attend a ceremony, 40 stop what they’re doing, recognizing a moment of silence and 47 wear a poppy. Of course, not everyone is off for the day but many of those working shared, what happens at their places of work. Importantly, many job sites from grocery stores, offices, construction sites to hospitals pay tribute. Work halts, often music is piped in and many ordinary Canadians stop what they’re doing, to remember those who have fought for our freedom.
One need only pay attention to the news briefly, to grasp that there are many destabilizing factors all around us, posing potential threats to our democracy and freedom. Intolerance, abuse, human rights violations, lying and hateful rhetoric, to name just a few. I was interested to find out, if any of my fellow citizens had concerns or apprehension about current, socio-political situations, in today’s world.
Thirty-six persons in my sample group replied, that they’re concerned or extremely concerned. The largest group, that are still sleeping well at night, were in my youngest group, from 14-25. I did follow up by asking if they’re paying attention to the news. They all responded, “No.”
My final inquiry was, what steps they feel they can take as individuals, to assure our democracy and freedom is protected. Happily, and resoundingly, 49 respondents feel voting, is the number one thing we can do as citizens, followed by speaking up and supporting groups and individuals, who are making a positive difference. One astute, young woman also offered up, leading by example. That’s my kind of girl!
This coming Nov. 11, the Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Affairs, are inviting places of worship and religious organizations with bells, to toll them 100 times at sunset, to commemorate this important date. I’m aware of at least some, who will be participating.
My hope is the souls of those lost in far off lands, in all the wars, will hear them, along with those of us living today, stopping to remember those who died, as we continue to reap the benefits, of their hard-fought battles for freedom.