Feeling Gutless on Remembrance Day Feeling Gutless on Remembrance Day

Feeling Gutless on Remembrance Day

Ray Pennings reflects on the difficulty of stomaching Remembrance Day and the ugliness of war, commemorating those who have gone before us. 

Ray Pennings
2 minute read
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Remembrance Day is important to me, in my head at least. I am very conscious to wear poppies, try to attend a cenotaph event whenever possible (either live, or viewing the national memorial event as my location and schedules allow), and read articles that describe the veteran experience—not because I am really that interested in war stories, but because I want to appreciate what these brave men and woman have done.

Still, I feel quite inadequate every time Remembrance Day comes around. My head understands the symbolic importance of this day. My will wants to take a strong stand against injustice and tyranny and in defence of freedom and democracy. My heart is deeply patriotic and is proud of the historic contributions that Canadian men and women have made militarily. (As a Canadian of Dutch descent, the stories of Canadian liberators were told from youth; and as an adult, I have learned other stories, including that of Vimy Ridge.)

The problem, however, is with my stomach. Maybe it's just me, maybe it's my generation. My emotional distaste for the ugliness of war often outweighs my emotional response against the evil we are fighting (which, I fear, I get numbed to after reading about it almost every day.) When musing about what it would be to take up arms and fight an enemy with real guns and real bullets, my emotions shrink. Is there not another way? Can diplomacy not work? All those young faces—sons, brothers, newly-married husbands, dads with young children; most of them men, though I recognize there are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers who also put their lives in harm's way—are their deaths really worth it? What if they were my friends and relatives? What if the call of duty came to me?

My heart, will, and head realize that just as in a broken world, the poor will always be with us, so there will be also enemies and tyrants with whom the only effective language of communication can be force. And to avoid force because it is unpleasant is to allow evil to fester, to prosper, and in many cases to destroy good. I would like to believe that if the call for duty ever came, I would have the grace and courage to respond in a way that is faithful to the convictions I know to be true.

Those who know me know that my stomach is one of the weaker parts of my disposition, and that distasteful sights and sometimes even normal food can prompt me to have physiological reactions of an unpleasant variety. Yet, when the time has come to do things that ordinarily would seem physiologically impossible, I have managed to persevere and get them done. I hope and pray that I would do that if such were the call of my country or the battle against injustice.

However, in the meantime, I will celebrate Remembrance Day mindful that the contribution I feel too gutless to make is being made every day by men and women representing me and my country. I will stop to reflect on the price of the freedom I enjoy, and realize that it is a gift to be used in a way that recognizes the significant price tag with which it comes. I will pray for the families of those who have loved ones fighting today for my security. And I will pray that he who is the Prince of Peace will come quickly and bring peace to a world that, without him, finds itself continually at war.

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