Remembrance Day is a solemn day for me. I have a niece and a nephew in the Canadian Armed Forces and I’m immensely proud of them, but at the same time it makes me ill to think they might be called upon to sacrifice their lives.
My respect for those who serve in our military began at a young age when I was privileged to know my great-uncle Bob.
Great-Uncle Bob (Robert James Moss, 1888 – 1978) was one of my favourite uncles. At the dinner table, he’d catch the gaze of one of us kids, then sneak the jelly dish over and surreptitiously eat the jelly, teasing us with mischievous glances. If he cracked a hard-boiled egg, we’d hear a sudden peeping (I’m sure his pursed lips were entirely coincidental). His eyes would widen in feigned surprise as he peeked inside the egg while we sat enthralled, half-believing there might be a chick in there.
That was the gentle, humorous, soft-spoken man I knew.
He never talked about the war, but in 1917 and 1918 he was part of the 44th Battalion Canadian Infantry. They saw some of the heaviest fighting in World War I in the frigid mud of hellholes like Ypres and the Somme, and I use the word ‘hellhole’ in its most literal sense.
The front was a barren wasteland of torn-up earth and barbed wire, pockmarked with shell craters that rapidly filled with icy water in the relentless rain. Many of wounded drowned or died of hypothermia rather than of their injuries. The trenches were just as bad, with men often standing for hours or days in frigid water up to their knees. The mud on their boots and clothing added fifty pounds or more to the weight they already carried. The din of shelling rarely ceased, and any foray out of the trenches was met with a hail of bullets. They were never dry; never warm; never safe.
Uncle Bob also fought at the battle of Vimy Ridge, where in three days the Canadian Corps suffered over 10,000 casualties, but secured the ridge. Uncle Bob was awarded the Military Medal for acts of bravery and devotion under fire.
I often think of him; not just on Remembrance Day. I think of the horrors he willingly endured for his country. For us. And I think of all the others in our Armed Forces, past and present, whose names and stories I’ll never know.
Thank you to all our brave and dedicated troops of yesterday and today. Not just on Remembrance Day, but on every day that I live in peace and safety:
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