Many of us, thankfully, never had to experience the anguish of war.
Back in the early 1960s I had a crush on a boy I met at the Saturday night dances at “The Hall.” He was a bit older than me and I was completely infatuated. He went off and joined the navy and it shattered this young girl’s heart, amplified by the song, Navy Blue, by Diane Something-or-other. We wrote a few times but then moved on.
Later, I dated a boy I cared about with all my heart. Young love. He joined the army and, although he never saw active duty, he was killed in a car accident while in training. He will always hold a special and exclusive place in my heart.
My grandfather served in the Belgian army during the Great War but he never spoke about it. My grandmother, who lived in Belgium during that war, shared many, many stories from the perspective of a civilian. She talked about evacuating with her siblings in the dead of night, on foot, as the enemy forces advanced. A haunted look would veil her eyes as she recounted the horrors she witnessed while hiding in blown out buildings among the dead bodies. Tears would fill her eyes as she spoke of the pain, the hunger and the endless, driving terror that kept them going beyond what any human could withstand.
Like many of us, this is as close as I ever came to war – the possibilities and the stories. I am aware I will never understand that kind of suffering. I do know and appreciate what it is to live in a time and place safe from the depredations of war.
Although many of us do not have direct memories, we all have loved ones, ancestors, who lived the horrors and whose blood stained foreign soil to ensure we will never have that experience – so we can live in freedom.
Kids today only know imaginary battles on game programs and have no comprehension of real nations in conflict, hostilities between countries, life-threatening combat with real blood being shed, death and destruction. To them it’s not real; it’s a game. We need to do a better job of teaching world history, our history. We need to do a better job of sharing the stories.
Don’t just pin on a poppy; explain why we wear them and who earned for us the freedom to do so.