Note: The following is the address given at the Deloraine Legion’s Remembrance Day service. It was written and delivered by Grade 12 student Kristian Nestibo.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and honoured guests. My name is Kristian Nestibo and I’d like to thank the Legion for the opportunity to speak on this special day. It is a great honour and a privilege to be part of this service, to help thank our veterans, those who join us today, and those who cannot. Remembrance Day is not about glorifying war, it is about remembering the people who gave their lives so we did not have to. Those who paid the ultimate price for not only their country, but for their friends, their brothers and sisters, their fathers and mothers, and for us, so that we would be able to live in this free and beautiful country. It is a day not only to honour the sacrifice of those who died for us, but also to thank the brave men and women who have fought and are currently fighting in the Canadian armed forces so we can live in peace without fear.
On this day, one hundred years ago, churches all across Europe rang their bells to signify the end of the 4-year conflict that had been raging across the globe, the end of World War One. About 700,000 Canadians served in World War One, fighting for not only our freedom and our nation, but the freedom of strangers overseas and to protect the sovereignty of foreign countries. Since then Canada has fought in World War Two, the Korean War and Afghanistan. Canada has also participated in peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Cyprus, and the Congo. These wars do not only affect the brave men and women that serve in them, but also their wives and husbands back home who miss and worry for them. The children back home who are left wondering if their dad will come back, or if they’ll ever see their mom again. Sometimes they do come home to a happy and tearful reunion. But sometimes they do not, and a once whole and happy family is left broken and empty. In a war, nothing is left untouched, untainted, unchanged. After a sacrifice so great, victory tastes bittersweet to the families of the fallen, the widow and the orphan, and to the survivors of the conflict.
For many of our veterans, even after the war is over, the battle continues. Many veterans carry both physical and mental wounds from their time serving our country. The scars and cuts heal eventually, but the damage done to a person's soul during the conflict often never heals and leaves them changed and broken. A study in 2013 showed that half of the Canadian veterans coming home showed signs of some type of mental illness and that one in ten Canadian soldiers are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Despite the seriousness of these issues most veterans cannot receive the medical help they need and are haunted by what they have experienced for the rest of their lives. I remember my Grandma Cheryl telling me stories about my Great-Grandfather Henry Dingwall after he and his three brothers returned from serving in the Canadian infantry with the Queens Own Cameron Hylanders during the second world war. During thunderstorms he would pace the house all through the night, unable to sleep. The thunder and lightning terrified him because it would remind him of artillery barrages he experienced overseas. The memories of the war haunted him, though he rarely spoke of them. It was a war that took his brother’s life. These fears continued for decades after he returned from Europe and he was never the same.
In spite of all these troubles and hardships, brave men and women have and will continue to enlist, because they feel it is the right thing to do, they will put themselves directly in the path of danger, standing between absolute darkness and those they care about, in the case of our peacekeepers for those they have never met and never will meet. This shows a moral fiber that many of us can barely comprehend, let alone perform.
One of the last lines of John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” reads “If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields”. It’s a line that is hard to live up to, especially for younger generations who have never experienced war. As time passes and the war fades into history, the newer generations struggle to remember the horrors of war and it gets harder and harder to honour the great sacrifice that our ancestors made for our freedom and our sovereignty. Most of what my generation knows of war comes from movies and video games, which often shows a glorified portrayal of the conflict. A majority of people my age will never understand the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers who died for us, we will never have to endure the gut wrenching, brutality of war. We will never have to fight and kill to survive, to see our friends and brothers die. . . I think that is why they fought for us, why they died for us. So we could live in peace.
So it is our great responsibility, to never forget, the courage, and the sacrifice, that Remembrance Day represents. Not to glorify war, but to remember …. to “not break faith with those who died” …. Lest We Forget….