Youthful warriors, then and now

Posted on November 11, 2007
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            As an older person, I am perhaps more appreciative of how beautiful young people are than they are themselves. I am certainly more appreciative of the life they have available to them.

            With Canada currently at war for the first time in my adult life, I am forcibly reminded of the youth of the warriors fighting our battles in Afghanistan. As a man of my generation, I am perhaps slightly more sexist than some younger men. A photo of two young Canadian women members of the military catching a nap by a vehicle in Afghanistan touched me especially deeply.

            As a driver for Meals On Wheels, I have the privilege of knowing, and hearing stories from, veterans of World War II including some I don’t see at Remembrance Day services.

            One of my current clients is a vivacious, elegant woman of 90. I mentioned to her this past week that she must have known many of the veterans who did and who didn’t survive the war.

            “I am a vet!” she replied.

            She was a nurse who served overseas in Africa, Italy and France in field hospitals right up behind the lines.

            As Terry Gadsden mentioned to me at the service in Loggieville this Remembrance Day, even the people who survived that war saw things no human should ever have to see.

            People of my generation, who have lived the most privileged existence in history, cannot even imagine what that must have been like.

            I don’t even want to try to imagine what medical staff in those hospitals must have seen and the battles they must have won, lost or partially won. Those people have always been older than I. Sure, they were once younger than I am but always older now than I am.

            I’ve always known that most of the people on the front lines of war were very young. Now, looking at pictures of the beautiful young people whose families are grieving their loss in the current war, I am looking at the faces of people much younger than I.

            In their faces, I see the faces of the WW II members and realize they have something in common with each other that they do not have with me.

            The 90-year-old nurse, and this year’s young people in the theatre of war, are the same glorious youth.

            There is one thing I know that they did not. I know just how wonderful is the life of peace and freedom my generation have had. Those who died and will die don’t have it. Those who survived, and will survive, carry physical and emotional scars that are foreign to me.

            All we can do is be grateful.

            As I listened to the clear, sweet, melancholy voice of young Abby Godfrey singing “Flanders Fields” at Sunday’s service, the value of the prize we have been given was, I think, clearer than ever.

            Thanks to you who gave us what we have had. Thanks to you who serve to give Abby and her generation as much.




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