Good morning everyone, I do apologize for the brief absence. My whirlwind trip to New York City took much more out of me than expected. I promise to share those adventures soon but right now I have something much more important to talk about.
Today is Remembrance Day, a day where we take pause to remember and thank those who have fought to keep our nation free. We remember each and every man, woman, and animal who gave their lives.
Every year around this time I take a moment to reflect on how fortunate I was in high school to have gone on a commemorative trip to Europe with my classmates. This trip was history focused and over the course of two weeks we explored France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany by visiting memorials, museums, and the graveyards where our homeland’s heroes now rest. I am the first to say this trip changed my life. It added a great deal of understanding to the respect and reverence I have for those who have served, it promoted my love of history, and it truly changed the way I see the world.
If I could live that trip over again I would do it with a much better camera, a lesser care for souvenirs, and more confidence when talking to people. I would ask more questions and invite more people to share their stories because the stories I did hear were the parts of the trip that really stuck with me. It’s one particular story that I’d like to share today in honour of those who served.
I remember clear as day standing outside a beautiful church in Holland, holding our province’s flags as we welcomed dignitaries and even the Dutch royalty in for a memorial service. It was not the Crown Prince who I recall the best though, it was an elderly Dutch man. I wish I had asked his name. I wish I had shared a lot more with him but I also believe the few moments we shared were more than enough. I will never forget him.
He saw the red jackets we were wearing and the flags we held so resolutely outside the church. I don’t know why he came up to me in particular but perhaps some things just happened for a reason. He asked where in Canada I was from which somehow promoted the answer “Ontario but my family is from the East coast.” I’ve always been proud of that heritage and since I was holding the Prince Edward Island flag it seemed suitable to mention.
He asked me where on the coast and I told him Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. This was enough of an invitation for him to share his story and I’m so thankful for that. He explained that he was just a small boy when the Nazis had occupied his town. He remembered clear as day the Canadian soldiers who came through that town and liberated them all. Amazingly, it was the Nova Scotia Highlanders who came through his home.
My great uncle was one of the Nova Scotia Highlanders and while he served in Belgium, not Holland, that connection was still enough.
Today I remember my great uncle Curtis Harrison Miller, whom I never had the fortune of meeting and yet he feels like the some of the closest kin I have. His story is one I have carried closely since wearing his name over my heart through every ceremony on that trip. He did not see France and Belgium the way I did, and sadly he did not get to come home. I am proud to say my great uncle fought when he didn’t have to, and I will always remember the ultimate sacrifice he made. Seeing his name in the Book of Remembrance in Ottawa was still one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I’m not sure how but I know in some way we share a special bond.
Too often have I overheard people misspeak about our history in a number of forms. Whether it’s being misinformed or just not informed to begin with, there are pieces that get lost, pieces that don’t always show up in every generic high school history class. If you’re lucky as I was, you had teachers whose passion for history made a topic which can sometimes feel like endless dates and facts into one that is so much more personal. If you were not as lucky, I challenge you to find your love of history for yourself. I truly believe it is a topic everyone can learn to appreciate, and it’s certainly one that is important.
Today, whether it is by attending a memorial ceremony or by just have a private moment of silence, I invite all of you to honour those who have served in whatever way you can. But don’t let it end on Remembrance Day. When you see a service member, thank them. Take the time to learn their stories and remember what they fought for. We cannot go back.
To every single man, woman, and animal who has served this beautiful nation of ours, oversees or here at home, thank you for your service. We will not forget the sacrifice of those who laid down their lives. Today, we remember and honour you all.
Curtis, if you’re listening, it’s been an honour learning your story. Thank you.