Buckhorn Community Cenotaph 9 November
by The Rev’d W. Glenn Empey
What mother in Canada would ever, ever have thought that standing ceremonial guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa would have been anything other than an act of which to be very proud.
What wife or child, father, sister, brother or sibling would have expected anything other than the honour felt from a soldier’s paying tribute –with his brothers and sisters in arms– to each and every sailor, soldier and airman who had given their lives so that we can live in freedom. What member of the Canadian Armed Forces, whether regular force or reserve, active or veteran, would, themselves, have expected or thought anything different.
What mother, father, and family would have ever expected, anywhere in Canada, that a simple walk across a parking lot would bring about a soldier’s being targeted.
The recent violence, right on home soil, against those who stand guard for us and for our country has struck to the core of Canadian conscious as if each of us is a member of one extended family. There are likely few who could not feel the dullness of shock and imagine the blow struck in the hearts of the families most directly marked by recent events.
The zeroed in map grid reference of the Cenotaph in the National capital and the position in a quiet, peaceful town in Québec somehow have embedded a 3-D image of how close danger can come to home. But, it’s a danger faced everyday by those who stand on guard for us.
A wife, a daughter, or son, an aunt, uncle and cousins always know, in the back of their minds, the danger faced by those who serve in our Armed Forces, especially when their loved ones are far from home. We recognize — in an intellectual kind of way in the backs of our minds — that those who serve in lands far away face danger directly. But, only the events of recent weeks really gives us any notion of what it is like to lose a son, a father, a mother, a sister or brother in the tragedy of war. And any sense we can possibly have about receiving such news is but a tiny glimpse of reality.
At this time of remembering in 2014, here at our own Cenotaph ahead of 11 November, we turn our thoughts and prayer to the thousands who have given their lives in service of their country, of our country… those who have served for us and paid the ultimate price… for you, and for me.
We can only imagine how it felt –or how it feels– for their families to have learned the news of their loss in battle. In the Boer War, over a century ago, it would have taken months for the news to hit home. In the Great War of 1914-18, the message would have been marginally a bit quicker. In the Second World War, the news would have been telegraphed to reach families sooner. Even more quickly in the Korean War. And now, the news is flashed across screens of all sorts of media almost instantaneously, the families to receive official word thereafter.
The events of recent weeks bring the flesh-and-blood reality of loss more deeply into our hearts and you and I know – if only a fraction of what it must have been and of what it is like — the cost paid by those who have served and by their families.
And so, today, in our remembering, we pay humble tribute for Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and for Corporal Nathan Cirillo. And even closer to our community here, we once again remember Corporal Nick Bulger.
We can only imagine.
Some, now older, in this community can remember actually being in the midst of the blitz in London. Some, now older, can remember the reality of Normandie, campaigns in Sicily, Italy, North Africa. And some, not so old, know all very well UN duty in Cyprus, Bosnia and elsewhere. Some of our youngest know first-hand of Afghanistan.
You and I can only imagine.
Taking time to remember prayerfully helps us grasp some sense of the sacrifices made. Taking time to remember prayerfully enables thankfulness, compassion and understanding for those who serve now and for those who have so valiantly served. Taking time to remember prayerfully enables one to reach out to those young lads and to their families if through only a humbled glimpse of knowing what they have done and what they do for us.
And so we remember. And we will always remember them.
But let the remembering — not just here at our tiny Cenotaph but everywhere– let our remembering and that of those, who pay respect at every Cenotaph for those who have been caught up in war and hostilities, be an everlasting message of encouragement for us to see things in new ways and to wage peace instead of war.
And so as we remember, let us remember with a new vision and let us hear in new ways the challenge the fallen cry out forever to us, when from Flanders Fields, they still implore:
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
Peace is the blanket that will warm their sleep. Peace is the blanket of hope and longing for mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children and siblings.
Peace within a heart.
We can only imagine. But that’s where it starts.
We can only imagine …
But that kind of imagining and that way of hearing their cry in a new way is heeding and harkening to their unceasing call for us to find new ways to respond – idealistic as that may sound.
It is just that kind of imagination flowing from an ideal that will some day become reality.
We can hear their cry and we can take up their quarrel with the foe by finally learning from the cost of the sacrifice they made.
And so, we imagine… in our remembering… in our faith with them.
Peace be with mothers, and wives, fathers, sons and daughters of every woman and man who stands on guard for us.
The blanket of peace bring comfort to those families whose loved ones have died in standing guard for us.
Peace be upon all those who, themselves, now so valiantly stand on guard for us.
For them, may each of us carry peace forth in our hearts today from this sacred place through our remembering, through our imagining, and through our faith with those who died.
Blessings and peace be to you and with those you love.
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Peterborough Examiner, News story …
 McCrae, Lt. Col. John, In Flanders Fields, Ypres, Belgium, 1915.