This week, Ottawa Morning (CBC) aired a segment in which the host asked people on the street why they wear a poppy, or not. As someone who hasn’t worn a poppy in years, it was an interesting question. I came to the following conclusions about my lack of poppy-wearing, and what remembrance day means to me.
I’ve had several friends die in the course of their military service, some in combat, some in circumstances relating to their service, and others from health issues arising from their service. The key word here is service – while our soldiers are well-compensated (although debate continues about whether or not they are well looked after when they are released from the CF), they have accepted the idea of unlimited liability. All of my friends knew that. They believed in something, they stood up for it, and ultimately, some of them died for it.
I consider myself a pacifist now, but a realist. I haven’t yet reconciled these diverging ideas, because while I’d like to believe that force is never justified, the realist in me knows that sometimes, it might be the only option. What I do know though is that people who stand up for what they believe in are worth remembering. I’m happy to say that categorically, none of my friends who have died regretted what they were doing. They might have had doubts along the way, but they all believed very firmly that they wanted to be in the Canadian Forces and defend Canadian values. Maybe that didn’t always manifest in the way they imagined (my cohort joined the CF during the waning days of our peacekeeping missions), but they adapted, and carried out their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that remembrance day for me is a very personal, and very private, day. I appreciate that other people want to show their support by wearing poppies. In fact, when I see people make that extra effort, re-pinning their poppies on whatever they’re wearing, transferring it from coat to jacket, it’s touching. That’s not to say that I don’t remember my friends; rarely does a day go by that something doesn’t remind me of one of them. Instead, I prefer to remember them privately. If that means that people think I don’t support them and the decisions they made, so be it.
For me, remembrance day is about remembering my friends and colleagues and respecting the choices they made so I can make mine.