Sunday, November 11, 2012

Spending Remembrance Day Quietly

We have been experiencing a winter storm here on the prairies. I went out for errands yesterday, and the day had the feeling of a true winter day. Over the past few years our snowfall has been minimal, but it has been forecast that we will have lots of snow this year.
This morning I was surprised to find that snow had continued to fall overnight. We have had approximately 30 cm of snow this weekend.

Since I've lived in this apartment, I've never had snow piled up like this against the windows.(I do live on the third floor, and this isn't piled up from the ground, just what blew against the window.)

I spent some of this day reflecting on Remembrance Day. I feel it's important for me to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in a country not experiencing the violence of war. However, I can't feel that we are a country at peace - we have soldiers still in Afghanistan, and also who have participated in military actions in other parts of the world, such as Libya just recently.

We have been hearing of young veterans returning from war, and suffering from Post Traumatic Shock Disorder. This is very terrible to hear about, but something that I believe happened to many veterans of older wars as well, either not understood, or called by other names, such as "Shell Shock". It is not unrealistic to think that the horrors of war are really more than most ordinary human beings can go through without experiencing damage to the psyche.

Several years ago, I found two amazingly written novels by a Canadian writer, Frances Itani, Remembering the Bones; and Deafening, This writer reseached WWI, so deeply, and wrote so well, that I felt a sense of what it may have been to be a young man of only 17, experiencing trench warfare. She also wrote from the perspective of several characters, at home in Canada during the wartime. Frances Itani, is an R.N.; as well as a nursing instructor, and academic, and she seemed to call on her expertise of medicine, to write her books.

Last month, I read her most recent novel, Requiem, which follows the main character, a Japanese Canadian, artist, coming to terms with his past. His family had been interned by the Canadian government, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and he and his family, who were Canadians, experienced terrible deprivation at the hands of the government, and their "fellow" Canadians.

I do believe, that we need to honour veterans - but that it is dishonest to glorify war. I think many at war, were heros, and many that we will never know about...and also that even those who return broken in spirit are heroes. I think that the older veterans want us to acknowledge the horror of war, and not to glorify

I found the following video of a war memorial in England, The National War Memorial, at Alrewas.
There is something very powerful in some of the monuments, and the feeling of mourning and grief is very immediate.



The Boston Lady said...

Brenda, you have said some very true and powerful things. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a soldier, or a civilian for that matter, in a war zone. The closest I ever felt to feeling that kind of threat was on Sept 11 - and that was for a short period of panic that we were under attack. My nephew - the father of the two babies I went to help look after a couple of weeks ago is a survivor of three tours of Iraq. During his second tour, his unit was attacked while on patrol. He was the only one to have neither injury or loss of life. Yet, his psyche was greatly injured, first by survivor's guilt and then by recurring nightmares of the attack and all the symptoms of PTSD. He actually went back for a third tour after that during which I know his young wife must have feared for his sanity and certainly his life. Thankfully he is stateside now, but there is a true Catch 22. If he seeks more help through the army for his psychological issues, they will discharge him and he will not retire properly as he wishes to do. He is smart enough to deal with his issues as best he can and his wife is well aware of how he is feeling and what he may need (quiet, sleep, exercise, fun, venting anger), but I hope that the military will offer these men and women returning more of a safety net than the standard number of "debriefing" or "grief" counselling they get. I know this has gotten long, but I wanted to make the point that today as you stated we are much more aware of the effects of being in a war zone than we were in older wars. I had an uncle who was a WWII POW captured in Germany. He only talked of his experiences once and that was to my dad, who would never tell anyone what he said as he promised him. My uncle suffered from alcoholism, drug use, broken marriages and estrangement from family most likely from unresolved issues. I didn't have much contact with him, but my brothers have told me about this as they knew him when they were growing up.

Sorry to write a book. The snow looks so pretty, although I know it also comes with work and inconvenience too. Ann

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

Hi, Ann,
Thanks for your visit and comment.
No need ever to apologise for your comments, as I always find what you hqve to say thoughtful, and interesting.
I also have family members from the past generations who were harmed by war, and suffered alcoholism, and other problems.
I hope your nephew and his fellow veterans will find more effective helps than they've had so far. But it does sound like he's trying his best to be well, with what's available to him.
Take care, and thanks again,

Teri Casper said...

I loved reading your thoughts and memories, sad though they are. My husband rarely talks about the war. I think I have heard more about his experiences than his kids.