Fighting For a Glimpse of Honour and Glory
It’s difficult to fit words like honour and glory into descriptions of these wars. It sometime seems as if war has become even more brutal in our day.
I closed my eyes against the bright sunlight and listened to the Last Post, trying to imagine what it would be like to hear those notes punctuate the night sky on a battlefield. I had to close my eyes to set my imagination to work, for I wasn’t anywhere near a war. Nor were there many soldiers in the crowd around me.
…our own Canadians...They are fighting for the very rules of humanity the Taliban refuses to acknowledge.
Rather, I was standing in a city park surrounded by mothers and fathers, lots of little children, teenagers, young adults, and even a few dogs on leashes. The Remembrance Day Ceremony I attended was brief and simple – just the bugle notes, a child’s voice reading In Flanders Fields, and a prayer.
But it was enough to stir remembrance. Enough to stir up thoughts of soldiers and battles, of sacrifice and bloodshed, of honour and glory, of defense and freedom. For are not these the words we associate with war? They are, of course they are. But there are other words, too.
At the end of the ceremony, I made my way to the foot of the cenotaph, and laid my poppy to rest with hundreds of others. All around me, as the service had come to an end; people were pulling poppies off their lapels and walking towards the statue of the soldier where they littered the ground with small pools of red. It might have been blood, had we been in another time, another place.
Throughout the service, I’d been thinking about two of my uncles, both of whom served in the Second World War. I thought about how gentle and kind and funny they are, how settled into life they’ve been as they raised their families, worked at jobs, welcomed grandchildren into the world, eased into retirement. As I listened to the Last Post, I tried to imagine my uncles, handsome young Cape Bretoners far, far from home, fighting a war.
That’s what stirred the words – honour, glory, peace. Fighting for freedom and against evil. Fighting with a noble purpose and according to gentlemen’s rules.
But as I laid my poppy on the ground, its bright red circle pooling amidst all the other poppies dropped there, I found other words stirring in my mind. I found myself thinking not of historic battles, but very nearly feeling the heat of battles scourging our planet now.
Afghanistan. Iraq. Congo. Somalia. Suicide Bombers. Ethnic hatred. Rape. Boy soldiers. Genocide. Land mines. It’s difficult to fit words like honour and glory into descriptions of these wars. It sometime seems as if war has become even more brutal in our day; that there are fewer rules – or fewer people willing to follow them.
But there is honour to be found among the soldiers, including our own Canadians, who are fighting the war in Afghanistan. They are fighting for the very rules of humanity the Taliban refuses to acknowledge. NATO’s soldiers are fighting against the insanity of suicide bombers. Against power that keeps women locked in houses, and refuses to allow girls an education. NATO’s soldiers are fighting against the manifestation of hatred – the kind of hatred that flies planes into buildings where ordinary people are simply doing their daily work.
There is also honor to be found among soldiers who are fighting an end to the 20-year war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country where there is neither the reality of peace nor democracy. Over the past 20 years, more than 3.8 million people have died from war and from war-related starvation and illness in this African nation.
Like the war in Afghanistan, this African conflict is characterized by anarchy; by soldiers who no longer agree to fight according to rules of decent human conduct, but rather use human weapons such as rape and child soldiers as their means of force.
But like the war in Afghanistan, there are two sides fighting. United Nations forces have come alongside nationals who want to see an end to the war in their countries. Who want peace. Who want assured freedoms to go to school, to raise families, to work at jobs – and all of this in peace.
It is hard for me to imagine what life in a war-ravaged country looks like. Even as I lay my poppy at the foot of a war memorial, I am keenly aware that I have everything that is currently denied to ordinary people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Somalia.
I live in peace. Remembrance Day is over for another year and here, in peaceful Canada, life unfolds in an ordinary manner. But the conflicts around our world continue.
I lay my poppy on the ground but I’m holding on to the gratitude I feel toward every soldier who fights with honour, who seeks not his or her own glory, but the glory of freedom for all people, regardless of where they live.
Lynda MacGibbon is a writer based in Riverview New Brunswick and the NB/PEI Director for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published in Moncton Times & Transcipt, Moncton, NB, November 14, 2009,and simultaneously on www.canadaeast.com.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.