November 11, 2015

This is a real time posting for me, no editing, no proofing except what the computer points out so I apologize for the lack of polish.

Today I faced a few emotions, the ones that I have avoided for the last 20 years, the same ones that last year meant I did not even leave my house. Before I get into that, I want to say to all the soldiers past and present who wore a uniform for their country, I am honoured to call you a brother or a sister. I do not care which country you fought for, friend or foe. I don’t think people understand that once you join a military either voluntarily or by conscription you give up 99% of your right to choose. We fight, we train, we become ready to kill who ever our country says is our enemy today. So today I salute all soldiers.

The vicious brutality that we were and are to become, does not happen because we came to our respective militaries pre-packaged, we had to be made. We (no matter what country we fought for) were taught, shown images on how to, indoctrinated and made to be ok with the taking of another human beings life. These were then drilled into you with repetition until the act would happen ideally without thought, without emotion.

Think about your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews or those amazing kids that are playing across the street in the park. Think what it would take to distort their mind so that killing another person and likely way more than one, would be ok. I joined my countries military because I wanted a better way of living for me and for everyone; I wanted to protect those that could not protect themselves. For that I currently and maybe forever will live with certain emotions, thoughts and feelings. The ones most people are afraid to talk about.

For wanting a better life for everyone and doing what you think is right cost you your life even if you never saw combat, it may cost you your emotional life it may cost you your physical life. In the United States, 22 of my uniformed brothers and sisters active or retired take their life every day. In Canada we don’t know what the stat is, but there is one. Last November the one I did not leave the house on Remembrance Day, there were four active duty soldiers in one week who took their own life. In that month I was making my own plans, I was nearing my own bottom, the week after Remembrance Day another soldier drove her truck into a oncoming Semi.   Not everyone can point to his or her scars…

So, now back to my day and facing a 21 year old wound. Today was the first time I attended a remembrance day ceremony in I do not know how many years, the last one I remember attending was November 11, 1993. I was still in uniform, still in active duty still wanting to make the world a better place by being willing to carry a weapon and use it, should I be commanded. I did not want to attend a ceremony in the past because I felt I did not sacrifice enough. I turned tail and ran after my last accident. I quit and therefore in my mind was not worthy; I failed my country, the men and women I served with and my family. (This was in my mind; no one in my family ever said anything to make this real)

Every time I would try to attend one, the anxiety, the fear would stop me.   I would make up an excuse for me only as to why I could not go. If I told someone I was going I would drive around or go sit in a coffee shop, or like last year not even leave my home. I do believe there was one or two I attended, but honestly I do not remember them even if I did. I do know I attended one at my daughter’s school but that was not on the 11th so I muscled through the emotion to show up. I missed this years though, sorry Mack.

Today, my daughter was with me; we held hands as we walked up to the Museum of the Regiments here in Calgary. My heart moving so fast, there were several times I was asking myself “what could I tell her so that we could turn around and leave”. I wanted to leave I wanted to just go home and go to bed. I was walking through the crowd of men and women to a place near the back, my head was on a swivel, I was looking for threats, looking for that person I would know who would know that I quit and felt I was a failure as well.

We found a spot to stand and wait for the ceremony to begin. My head continued to scan the crowd as I reached into my pocket and pulled out my military beret. This was part of my process; I held it for what seemed like forever. I saw all the other retired soldiers wearing theirs, I was still not sure if I was brave enough to wear it, to identify myself in that way. Somewhere in that moment, I found the courage to put it on and the shit storm it started in my body was intense. I was going to take it off, as I reached for it my daughter turned around and saw it on my head for the first time ever.

She smiled in a way that showed she new what I was going through, in a way that said it was ok. She then reached her little ten-year-old hand up to touch my regimental cap badge, the brass and silver tarnished from 21 years of sitting on shelves, dressers and inside boxes. She smiled and made it a little better in my heart. I left the beret on, I knew the routine, this is the one-day a year a retired military soldier can wear it, it is the one day we can salute our national anthem and the last post with it on. I took it off at the end and was about to put it away when Mack asked if she could wear it as we walked back to the truck. So now I have this amazing positive image of my daughter wearing my beret as we walked through the crowd.

So, today I am remembering all those that served in any military anywhere around the world. Today, I am remembering the Turkish soldier who was shot while I was in cypress by his own country for abandoning his position. Today I am remembering that I did not fail, I did serve and I did the very best I could. Today I am remembering to be compassionate not only for others, but for myself.

Keep chasing those cars!

With Love, Respect and Admiration

Steve

P.S I added the Turkish soldier because I do think about him. But also to show you what some countries do to their soldiers for failure to follow orders. Also I did not witness the shooting, that is what our commander told us what happened when we (the Canadian contingent) turned him back over to his country and to his unit.

7 Comments on “My Remembrance Day

  1. Dear Steven; I am always so touched when I read your posts. This one as they all have make me so proud to be your Mom. The raw emotion must be difficult for you to write about. Your courage never ceases to amaze me.
    I am so happy that you have compassion for yourself as well as others.
    So grateful you are my son.
    Love Mom

  2. Proud does not fully express how I feel about what you did today. To appropriately stand amongst your fellow veterans and acknowledge your experiences is wonderful. How beautiful that Mack shared this experience with you – like her father, her presence provides comfort and safety. Thank you for you and all the vulnerability you willing share.

  3. God bless you for sharing your story Steve, it is very touching, and bears witness to an experience that civilians such as myself don’t have exposure to or understanding of.
    The cost of taking on a service role of this type lasts a lifetime. As previously mentioned in a post, I too thank you for your service.

    I can see the strength required not only to go through your challenge but to write about something like this is considerable(Herculean), and I know you will grow stronger still.

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