Thursday, November 10, 2011

And No Drums Beat

Remembrance Day

A day originally created to remember the "War To End All Wars".
Seems we've had a few of those kind of wars.
History 12 spewed all sorts of and dates and names and numbers pertaining to offensives and battles and casualties. Numbers meant nothing really - when you live in a territory of less than 25,000 people how do you quantify 6,000,000 people? Or 20,000,000? Even the best imagination can't take you there.

But there we went in June of 2011. Some of you may remember this post I wrote of our visit to Omaha Beach...

 We went to many war cemeteries on our trip, but when we went to Omaha we were overwhelmed.

As we walked through the parking lot toward the Visitor Centre we passed a man and a woman who looked to be in their 60s - she was crying and he was trying to console her. Marc and I looked at each other and realized the images we had seen of Omaha on television over the years might just have been pretty accurate - a place for tears.

And it was.

I said it was the saddest place I had ever been and up until a few days later, that was the truth.
Then I went to a place sadder still.

This is a German cemetery, Neuville-St Vaast, near Arras, France.

This cemetery has more than 44,000 graves, four men per cross, their names etched on each side, back and front. The crosses are dark grey in colour, simple in design and the grass grows long and shaggy underfoot.

A stark contrast to the bright white of the crosses at Omaha, where the brilliant blue of the sea is a backdrop, and the whole of it is so meticulously maintained.

Neuville-St Vaast is a cemetery of World War 1, and is only tended by volunteers, of which there are not many.
It is truly a grave yard.

 As far as we could see, the grey crosses marched across the landscape, seemingly unending, in all directions. 
We didn't arrive there purposefully; we came upon it by happenstance and once realizing what it was, we stopped.
We were the only people there and judging by appearances, it was not a place often visited.
Some would say it fitting, given they were the aggressors, and ultimately, the defeated. 
I saw it differently.
When I was young I was full of righteous thoughts about wars; winners, and losers, about people thinking for themselves, and what it means to blindly follow ideals and beliefs without question.

The older me wonders about a world that existed before my time. When WW1 happened, WW2 hadn't yet. Duh.
But what I mean is, it's easy for us to look back, with all of history's experience, to say this was right, or that was wrong. It must have been a different thing to live it, without foreshadow's knowledge. 

I can't imagine what it would be like to send a child to war. 
Or a husband, or father, or wife or mother. I can't imagine what it would be like if they didn't come home, if their resting place was half a world away.
This post isn't about whether or not a war should have been fought, but rather, what it means when a country sends it's people to fight.
As a nation, and as people, we decide what we believe in, what we stand for, what we fight for and what we would die for. And that is true for all nations, and all people the world over. And we can decide that better for ourselves now, than any of our predecessors could - they were often bound up by duty and honour...

What I am struggling with is that the men that lie in this cemetery fought on behalf of their country, rightly, or wrongly, doing their duty as good citizens did.

And no drums beat for them.
And the flowers are all gone.


Bead and Needle said...

OUTSTANDING post, Jillayne - thank you! Tanya

dianehobbit said...

A thought provoking post and so true. X

Marj Talbot said...

Let us not forget our ancestors who fought the seas and depression to give us a better life in a better place. A war of another kind.

MosaicMagpie said...

A great post. War such a terrible word. Each side fighting for what they think is right and just. Lives lost and hearts broken all in the name of duty. One day to pay honor to all that have sacrificed. Such a small payment for such a large debt.

Michelle May said...

Wars, fighting and death make me so sad. So many beautiful lives lost. I'm grateful and appreciative to all those that sacrifice.

Suztats said...

So many lives lost to war.
Lest We Forget.
A thought provoking post, Jillayne. Thank you.

Createology said...

I am typing this with heavy heart as I read your post that says so much of our history. I didn't find my own way to honor Veterans Day on my blog however your post is perfect. Thank you so much for saying what I couldn't.