Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada - on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month time is supposed to stand still for a minute or two minutes while we remember our soldiers, alive and dead.
There is a lot to remember these days. Both my father and my father in law fought in the second World War; both came home alive and more or less well but many, so many, did not. There were so many servicemen from that conflict that there are still, although most of them are now in their eighties or better, many of them to march slowly past the cenotaph or sit in wheelchairs and watch the youngsters parade. The Korean war vets are somewhat younger and most of those who stayed involved with the military after their term was up will still be marching with tummies sucked in and regimental badges on their tams. Canada has very few Vietnamese veterans - that conflict seems to us to be reserved to the Americans to mourn. But for our size, Canada has a lot of veterans.
As well, for many years Canada has sent young people off on 'peace-keeping missions'. We have been proud as a country to offer highly trained and skilled military people to work for the United Nations or NATO, enforcing cease fires or containing - or trying to contain - disasters. Some of them have been wounded or killed; all of them have been exposed to danger and uncertainty.
For the last few years we have young men and women to honour and commemorate who are fighting an active war; they seem like kids to me, these veterans of Afghanistan. I could have grandchildren among them, although, thankfully, I do not. Canada has sent them off to a foreign land to fight an invisible enemy for a cause not well defined and they have done remarkable things. And died well. I wish I could think that the war against fundamentalist rule was being won but I can see little evidence of that. I was glad when we sent fighting forces because I thought that at least women might be freer under a secular state, but the present government seems bound and bent to uphold some of the worst excesses of the Taliban regime and enjoy continuing graft and corrupt practices. It is not the fault of our soldiers over there but I think they must feel as if they are pushing the proverbial rock up the proverbial slope and too many of them are being wounded and killed.
And so I shall use my time of silence tomorrow to think of these young people living in danger and vulnerable to a hidden enemy. All of them, the living, the wounded and the dead. The lucky ones will be the ones who can come home whole in body and whole in mind. They deserve all that we can give them, of respect, of resources to help them recover, and in sorrow, our profound thanks.