Often on a grave in France, there is an inscription. One of the principals of War Graves Commission was that all of the fallen would be treated equally. The headstones were simple and essentially the same, no bodies were allowed to be repatriated, rich or poor, officer or enlisted man they were all buried where they fell. One concession made was that families were allowed to have a small inscription put on their son's or husband's headstone.
Visiting my namesake's grave was a very powerful experience, on a trip filled with powerful experiences. I was struck by the inscription that Clare's parents, my Uncle and Aunt, put on his grave
Service. It is really what is the essence of what of what we honour on Remembrance day, service and the sacrifice that accompanied it. Many, if not most, of the men who volunteered for the Great War, World War II, and the wars and peace keeping missions that followed, did so out of a desire to serve. To serve their country and the greater good. I assume that it continues today with the men and women in the Armed Forces.
Most would know that there was sacrifice involved. Theirs is a dangerous profession. And although we most often think of death when we think of that sacrifice, others were wounded (often horrifically), many bear psychological scars, and all put themselves in harms way while far away from family, friends, and the comfort of a familiar life.
At one point, when my father and I were being filmed reminiscing about Grandpa for a documentary (footage that never made the finished product), the subject of whether Grandpa's experience inspired me to join the RCMP came up. My answer then, as now, was that no it did not. I had more direct inspirations that lead me to the RCMP, Members who I wanted to emulate. But one of the many things I took from Grandpa (and my Dad) was that service, public service, is an important and noble calling.
My grandfather lived through a horrific war, a war that chewed up nine million soldier's lives, and scarred countless others. He knew that "War is hell, from the Devil's School" a terrible thing. He also knew that it was important to do the right thing, even if that was hard and involved sacrifice. As much as he knew that war was a terrible thing, that sometimes, as much as we wish it otherwise, it is a necessary thing. At the outbreak of the second World War, in his mid-forties, he again volunteered to fight, rejected due to a hernia. But the service remained, and he became a Captain in the Home Guard, and opened his house to any errant service man who needed a place to stay during those years.
Remembrance Day, to me, is by far the most important day of the year. For personal reasons it is a highly emotional, powerful day. The day where family passes through my thoughts more than any other day of the year. And through out it, I pause and give thanks to the service of Grandpa, and Clare, their friends, colleagues and comrades, and those who follow in their footsteps. In service.