Yesterday morning my wife, Gimalle and I did what we do every year on November 11. We attended one of the many memorial ceremonies that take place around our city and, indeed, around every city in our country.
Remembrance Day, November 11, is a day for us to remember, with gratitude, the sacrifices of so many others who selflessly gave their lives in order that we can experience the fabulous freedom we take for granted each day.
Our good friends to the south observe this day with us and use Veterans Day to honour their many soldiers who, like our fallen heroes, made the ultimate sacrifice to perpetuate the values and freedoms that have made our countries so great.
We honour too, not only those who forfeited their lives but all those who have served and continue to do so, including the many who still place themselves in harm’s way each day, knowing that each morning they venture out to do their jobs may well be their last.
It’s interesting how freely the label “hero” is bandied about in our everyday language. We use that word to describe athletes, entertainers, business people and even politicians.
I even remember, several years ago, reading that Tiger Woods was a golfing hero to many.
A golfing hero?
A football hero?
A business hero?
The dictionary describes a hero as “a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and nobel qualities.”
And, to me, that description does not apply to people who hit golf balls, throw footballs or increase shareholder value by 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000%.
These are highly skilled and talented people whose demonstrated capabilities have earned them the adulation of their many admirers, but heroes they are not.
No! To me our true heroes are those we honoured yesterday including those who returned to our soil having left many of their own body parts in foreign lands and who stoically pick up the broken pieces of their lives and bravely soldier on with their lives, shunning recognition and proudly stating they would do it all again.
And heroes are also those whose post-service lives will be spent fighting the demons of horror that they brought home with them and that will live in their minds and haunt their future for years to come.
Their heroism is incalculable, their sacrifices immeasurable.
And so it was interesting to encounter many people to whom Remembrance Day simply meant a day off from work, a long weekend and the opportunity to have an extra day of fun and partying.
There was a certain irony in listening to some people discuss their “holiday” plans.
The irony is this: they possibly fail to understand that the choice they made of ignoring the solemnity of this day in favour of doing fun stuff is a choice they can make because they have the freedom to do so and that freedom is theirs to enjoy because of the very sacrifices made by the people whose special day they chose to ignore.
I sense that irony is lost on them and I suppose that to those who have never known anything other than freedom, then freedom is simply normal to them and we don’t generally celebrate normal.
I have met many people who came to this magnificent country in search of freedom and whose appreciation of freedom is so deep that they will never take it for granted.
And I’m sure that each of them shares my gratitude for the many thousands who have in the past, and continue to this day, to stand up and fight so that we can take freedom for granted.
These are our heroes to whom we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid and we must cherish their memories.
You are all my heroes.
Till we read again.