Remembrance Day, poppies and national anthems. It's always been a Big Deal in my family and in my village growing up. So many men who went to World War II, not so many for the Vietnam nor for the current war.
It was always a day of somber and sadness, remembering those whose lives were lost. It was never about supporting a war (at least from my perspective), nor was it about glorifying such a horrific concept... war. There were too many stories of sadness, grief, lost hopes and dreams. All those young men believing it was exciting and "good" being confronted with the reality of loss and suffering.
My grandpere passed away two years ago after a long period of illness. Remembrance Day has always been about him.
He, with many village fishermen, left for war at the young age of 17 years old. Grand-mere refused to accept his proposal of marriage pre-leaving as she said in her abrupt way: "I didn't want to be married to someone missing a limb... so I waited." (you can see how perhaps they weren't the best match).
Instead of glory and heroism, Grandpere found three years in the front lines as a foot soldier. Upon his return he obviously battled with the trauma that haunted him, medicating with alcohol until half his stomach was removed and he suffered a stroke. It wasn't until he was much older and losing control of his emotions that we heard much of his story. Before then, every Remembrance day he'd take out his suit with all his metals and join those who were left to honour those who had passed. Tears streaming down his face, but without much of a word being spoken.
The chances of living through the war as a foot soldier were pretty dim. Front lines, in the trenches, most of those he served with died. He once told a story of how during long months they slept and waited in muddy trenches. With no place to relieve themselves other than where they lay their heads, his helmet became his toilet and his food bowl. He always said that it wasn't good for much else.
Grandmere usually told most of the few stories as Grandpere was too emotional. She'd talk about how he'd be looking up at the stars at night and wonder if he'd ever see his friends and family again. How he had never felt so alone. All the while, Grandpere sat and silently shook as tears rolled down his cheeks and he looked away, for some reason embarrassed.
The most poignant (and last) story I heard was about how at one time he was stuck in a hole of some sort with German soldiers all around. Certain he was about to be found and killed he readied himself. A German soldier stopped at the foot of the hole and they stared at each other. He said they both saw how they were the same: boys who were being forced to kill each other, human beings with families and loved ones killing each other.
Without a word the German soldier left, obviously reporting that he had seen nothing as no one else came looking. Because of that German soldier, my Grandpere lived.
That last story is what war will always be for me.
Lest We Forget.
In loving memory of Grandpere Albert d'Eon
article copyright by EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com