Today we will take our children to the Remembrance Day ceremony in our community. We have taken our children to Remembrance Day ceremonies, or have watched them on television, each year since they were babies. My husband and I believe it is important, it is our duty and our right as Canadians, to remember and honor the many Canadian soldiers and civilians who have given their lives to defend our freedoms and the freedom of people far away.
When I was younger, Remembrance Day brought to mind my grandfather, PJ, who served in France during the Second World War. I also heard stories of a great uncle, a pilot who died serving his country in WW2. As new university student, I used to have lunch with my grandfather every week. From time to time, the door bell would ring, and my grandfather would have a visitor, a wizened old soldier friend who would drop by just to talk. My grandfather was very discrete about what happened overseas during the war -- I wish he had told me more. I suspect there was a great deal that my grandfather did not want to talk about.
As we do each year, today we will tell our children the story of Nichola Goddard, a young Captain and soldier who served her country well in the Afghanistan War. Captain Nichola Goddard of the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery was the first Canadian woman to die in the Afghanistan War; she was killed in a grenade attack in the Panjwaii district, west of Kandahar city, on May 17, 2006. My husband and I will share our memories of Nichola's joie de vivre and courageous leadership, of her family, of her wedding to Jason that we attended when I was pregnant with our first son, and the return of her body to Canada.
In Tim Goddard's words, Nichola died too young, but she died doing something she believed was important, something she was good at, something she loved doing, and surrounded by people she enjoyed and respected. Nichola talked about helping the children of Afghanistan, and through her parent's tireless support, a legacy has been started: Light Up Papua New Guinea. Nicola's father Tim has served this country well by reminding the Prime Minister, and those in the military who make such decisions, that Canadian citizens have the right to openly and publicly welcome our dead soldiers home [here][here].
On my way to work yesterday, I was listening to Stuart Maclean's Remembrance Day Concert on my iPod with tears pouring down my face. It wasn't exactly just sadness I was feeling, although I was sad; rather, I was overwhelmed by gratitude, love, compassion, empathy, sympathy for the soldiers and their families -- these emotions literally welled up and overflowed as the bagpipes started playing. I found myself chanting a prayer over and over:
Thank you God for the men and women who fought to protect our freedoms.
Please God, protect those brave and courageous soldiers who still fight for the freedom of those who are oppressed.
We will pause and stand in silence before, during and after the 11th minute, of the 11th hour, of the 11th day, and remember.