Today, like many thousands of people around the world, I am remembering those who lost their lives in past wars.
I have a couple of special war memories from my own past. I was born in England during WWII, and although I can’t remember much of it, I know the value of peace today. My first real memory happened long after the war when my father returned from duty overseas in uniform.
It felt strange to have a man living in the house. Since my birth, we had been a house of mostly women—my mother, my older sister, my aunt, and my grandmother. As I grew older, I loved to hear my dad's tales of his war years, but he seldom wanted to talk about it. I can now understand why. He wanted to try and forget and get on with life in England and enjoy his family being together again.
My next strong memory comes much later. I’ve told this story before because it concerns a visit my husband and I made, together with my cousin and her husband who lived in France, to the Awoingt British Cemetery in Northern France in July 2010. I wrote about that emotional experience in an article for Senior Living Magazine in 2011.
The land, surrounded today by peaceful farm fields, was donated by the French for the cemetery. Many young British and a few German soldiers from WWI are buried there.
We had set out to find the grave of a relative who died at the tender age of 19 just two weeks before Armistice Day in 1918 in WWI. We knew he was buried there. What a waste of a young life, I had thought. But young Eric was a passionate young man who was fighting for something he strongly believed in—to free the world from oppression so that future generations might live in peace.
He had even lied about his age so he could join up. Young men like Eric were beyond brave. Despite their fear, they left home and all that was familiar to them to forge their way through terrible conditions, seeing horrors that no human being should ever have to witness.
I will never forget the moment when we found his grave. It will remain in my heart forever.
We must never forget those young men. If we ever do, or if we minimize their heroism, they will have died in vain. And that must never be allowed to happen.