Veterans’ life stories

I have been very lucky in late October and early November to have the chance to spend some time with local veterans.

Over the last few years I have been very lucky in late October and early November to have the chance to spend some time with local veterans in the Columbia Valley, and listen to their stories of what life was like during times of war. But this is not where the story ends.

The people whom I have talked to have not only given a hands-on description of their times spent in conflict zones, they have also shared with me the many stories of their lives, before and after the wars they were involved with.

Their life stories are always filled with many great moments, and I am humbled when they so generously share them with me.

As Remembrance Day comes upon us for another year, Canadians will gather to look back at the past while also thinking about those men and women who serve our country all over the world today.

It is a day to say thank you to those who have the courage and honour to serve in a way many people will not understand. But I feel it is important to listen to the stories because a great deal can be learned from the past.

Over my years I have travelled a little and talked to many people in many countries about different points in history which changed the path the world was on. I am always enthralled by the stories veterans tell, of not only the battles, but also about living and making the best of the situations they find themselves in.

You can watch a film or read a book, but there is a different level of understanding when you hear the stories being told from people who were there.

While completing a degree in history, a professor of mine stressed the importance of talking to those who were alive at the time, whenever possible. It has the ability to humanize a story. I believe it also has the ability to take you back to a different place and time with the people.

For most people in Canada, the concept of a combat zone is one we will never have to face. Yet it is a place where our military goes for many different reasons. People have the right to not be supportive of combat missions, but that does not mean they do not support the soldiers who get sent into them.

A few years ago, while I was interviewing a veteran in Invermere, I asked him if he believed people learn from the past. This older man looked at me with eyes much younger than his age, and said he guessed not, because of all the fighting that was still happening around the world. Perhaps that is the one of many profound lessons we could learn from these warriors.

The past is always there and can be found quite easily. A great deal can be learned if we, as individuals and as a society, are willing to look at the past for just one day a year. So when we gather again this year to look back in time, and to also remember why the battles happened and are still happening. We look at the sacrifices that were made and are still being made.

But also ask questions to those who lived through it, if you can, because their version of history is one which may not always be there. And the stories they tell are important not only to their generation and its past, but also all of our futures.

Take the chance to learn so their stories are never forgotten.


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