Sunday, 8 November 2015

Veteran's Day

Remembrance Sunday

Veteran's Day in Lac La Biche, Alberta
In 2009, I had the pleasure of staying with a lady who I loved in Canada. On the last full day we had together, we saw the Veteran's Day service in Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada

This article about the day is an article I wrote for my good friend, Julia, last year. 

Veteran's day parting

 To fully understand both the joys and sadness this day has for me, I need to take the story back to a few days before Veteran's Day.

 The first trip over to Canada to see my lovely friend Faye had been in the Summer of 2009, even though we had planned meeting months in advance. I still had to use CanAir as the flight, owing to the shortage of money available. This trip entailed a Tuesday to Tuesday schedule, being cheaper than Air Canada they fly once a week from Gatwick airport - it was a real pain to get to the airport, involving a six-hour wait for the flight and worried about nerves.

 To make the best use of time, I went for six weeks on each trip. Thus, the October trip went into mid-November. We had arranged for a quick return in October to coincide with Thanksgiving, the anniversary of our first chat and birthdays. The second flight was from Heathrow airport - so much faster and easier to get to and being Air Canada, they flew daily.

 On the Monday afternoon before the trip was due to end, we were chatting on webcam to Faye's daughter Marge, when Marge asked "When is Al going back?"

 I replied "Tuesday the 12th" thinking of my previous flight back.
 Marge said, "Wednesday is the 12th."

 You can imagine our joy at the thought of having an extra day together. 

 The 11th of November being Veteran's day, there was a lovely parade in Lac La Biche. Ex-service personnel marched down the main street and down to the lake shore to cheers from the town's people. The veteran's hospice is across the road from the lake and has an ever-lasting flame in the front porch. As we stood and watched these brave people, many of them in wheelchairs or using crutches; tears came to my eyes.

 After seeing the parade, Faye drove us down to the lake. Where we had our favourite snack of burgers with gravy and chips as we sat and cuddled watching the water lapping on the shoreline, at this time of year it was easy to see - if you looked carefully that the icy fingers of winter were upon you.

 The lake is so large that it can be able to be in use for three junior ice-hockey games; car racing and ice skating simultaneously, and safely. The lake freezes so hard it is used as an ice road to the nearest town of Plamondon - not somewhere I wish to re-visit.

 We sat by the lake with the sun setting over the cold waters, and the hills on the far side blocking most of the light from the fading sun. The sunset looked like a golden cross as it settled down, just before finally setting there was a lovely moment when the darkened image of the sun glowed like an orb from under the clouds.

As we sat there enjoying our last full day together, just holding hands and cuddling I took the last photos of the lake - one I use as the cover for the e-book Nerja.

 Veteran's day to me is not only a time of remembrance for those who gave their lives for our freedom but a reminder of the last day I spent with one of the loveliest people I have had the pleasure to meet.

In memory of the fallen heroes
 Many men, women, and children gave their lives so we could live in relative freedom. So, before anyone starts to decry our liberty - remember if they hadn't for your liberty - you wouldn't be allowed to slander their name and honour. 

Before you slander them
 Before you have the audacity to slander these brave people answer this question- what have I given to this country? Many - if not most - of the people who slander these extraordinary people have had no involvement in the armed forces. They deem themselves fit to slander these courageous warriors at every opportunity. 

My grandfather was bayoneted in the trenches in Ypres while serving with the East Yorkshire Regiment

The trenches
One of my last vacations, before I got married, was a trip to Switzerland. On the return journey, we stopped at Verdun, to take a look at the trenches.  

 You cannot imagine how moving the experience was for me. In this day of mass bombing from the skies, and death by terrorism. To stand in a trench, and see the man you're going to shoot - slowly ease the trigger and fire, then watch him fall - I am not surprised my grandfather and many of his generation never wanted to talk about their experiences. Taking a life is a terrible burden to bear - if you are civilised.

My experiences were so moving; I wrote From Elgar to Vaughan Williams My e-book is fictional. I wrote the story as a tribute to the men who went away thinking the war would be over by Christmas, and four years later thanked God they had survived.

During World War 2, I had uncles in both Navies, and an uncle in the Air, Sea Rescue service. One of my uncles was permitted not to enter the services, his work on the docks as a stevedore is considered of national importance. He didn't go to war but he almost lost his life saving another man when a crate slipped it cradle.

My father fought in the Indian campaign towards the end of the war and witnessed a little-known event in history, shortly after the war ended

I never fought in a war. I did my armed service career during the "The Troubles" I received a medal for being in the war zone but I deem myself unworthy of its value, I did nothing brave, or gallant and I wasn't near the front line; other than a brief helicopter flight. A flight that scared me, not because we were flying, or where we were flying, because looking through the hole in the floor that held the camera, I couldn't tell if we were flying or having problems.

Was it not John F. Kennedy, who said  “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

That is something the Muslim immigrants should take into account before entering Europe.

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