These two are sad their father is unable to attend their school's Remembrance Day ceremony today, instead they are proudly bringing in pictures of him.
Today I am taking the time to remember not only those veterans who have served and continue to serve Canada; I am also paying tribute to our neighbouring veterans in the American Armed Forces. Thank you.
I leave you with this beautiful Canadian song, Highway of Heroes, written by the Trews and Gordie Johnson.
Remembrance Day, also referred to as Poppy Day by my children, is very important in our home. Not only because my husband is military, but because I truly believe it is important to honor those veterans that have served, and continue to serve, our country with the very best of intentions. Those that have put their country, and fellow countrymen, first; risking their lives, their mental and physical health, and the relationships with those they love. For me, it has nothing to do with politics or whether one agrees with past or current missions. It is simply a day to honor veterans of the past, present, and future. It is a day to pay tribute to their lives, spirits and sacrifices.
Over the weekend, while taking the time to speak with Fiona and Patrick about Remembrance Day, and teaching them the first verse of the poem In Flanders Fields, we put together a poppy craft - poppy sun-catchers - to display in our front window. The kids made five poppies, one for each family member.
On the day after Halloween, the widow and six year-old daughter of one of my husband's friend's, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan (see this post written two years ago), made a Facebook challenge encouraging us, before pulling out our Christmas decorations, to decorate for Remembrance Day. Every year we have always hung a homemade poppy wreath on our door, however the kids and I took it up a notch this year by accepting their challenge, and created this window display!
The banner is made out of pages from an old ruined book, and the cardboard letters were cut from a frozen pizza box and coloured with a black sharpie. We pinned the letters on twine with clothespins, and admired our work! The pictures don't do it justice. My good camera's battery needs replacing, so I took these pictures with my camera phone.
Tomorrow morning I will be attending Fiona and Patrick's school Remembrance Day ceremony, and in the afternoon the kids will be laying a wreath with my mother, who is avidly involved in a local Legion, at an Ottawa cenotaph. I have no doubt tomorrow will be a day filled with tears; and numerous discussions/questions about Remembrance Day, Daddy, Daddy's current deployment, peace, war, and soldiers. One thing is for certain, we will remember.
I was taught at a very young age Remembrance Day is a day of respect. A special day to honour those men and women in the armed forces who sacrificed themselves and served their country.
Before marrying my husband, a military man, I often associated Remembrance Day with elderly veterans who had served in WWI, WWII and the Korean war. I still, most definitely, pay tribute to those soldiers, however I now have a much stronger association and a true personal remembrance of those who have served and continue to serve in Afghanistan.
Through my husband I have met, socialized and have become friends with many soldiers and their families. One such veteran who I remember each and every November 11th since 2009 is Scotty. Scotty was a friend of my husband's. They served together in Afghanistan in 2006/2007 on a 7 month tour of duty and became close friends developing a military friendship/bond unbeknownst to civilians. Scotty was a true soldier, as my husband liked to call him, meaning a front of the line infanteer. My husband always spoke of Scotty very fondly and I know he looked up to him and admired him for his bravery and comradeship
My husband (2nd from the left) and Scotty (far right) while in Afghanistan in 2006/2007.
In March 2009 while serving on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Scotty was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol. I can remember the moment I found out about Scotty's death. I was sitting at my computer writing a paper for school when my husband called from Afghanistan. He wanted to let me know himself about Scotty's death before it was broadcast on the news. I could hear and feel the grief in his voice. I immediately felt such sadness for Scotty, for his beautiful wife and baby and for my husband who had lost a dear friend and brother in arms. Scotty was due to return home to his wife and 6 month old baby the following month.
Scotty was a beautiful man - inside and out. A man who loved life and and people. I can remember running into him one day shortly after my husband told him I was pregnant with our first child. He ran up to me and gave me one of the biggest bear hugs I had ever received in my life lifting me right up off the ground and offering me heartfelt congratulations on my pregnancy. Later, when I couldn't have been any more than twenty weeks along into my pregnancy, he gave us (for the baby) a stuffed old-fashioned Winnie the Pooh that played twinkle twinkle little star. He posessed a true generosity of spirit unlike most men I have known and I feel so lucky to have known him - even if briefly.
My daughter still has that Winnie the Pooh and she knows it was Daddy's soldier-friend who is in heaven that gave it to her; although the music has since died the memory of the man who gave it to her lives on forever in our minds and hearts - we will always remember.
Scotty is one of many brave veterans who have sacrificed their lives for our country. This Remembrance Day I will be thinking of him and all those veterans who have served and continue to serve our country.
When my husband left for his last tour of duty to Afghanistan in 2009 my daughter wasn’t even fourteen months old and I was fifteen weeks pregnant with my son. Preparing her for his deployment wasn't a huge ordeal. I made sure to have pictures of my husband placed all around the house including on the walls, the fridge and in a frame on her dresser that she could kiss every night before bed. This time around it was much different. My husband and daughter have a very special bond – she is somewhat of a “Daddy’s Girl." I was extremely anxious about how to prepare her for his departure and extended absence.
The military sent us a package with a number of resources on preparing for deployment including strategies on helping children with deployment and coping with stress, discussions about single parenting, time management, spousal stress management and emergency child care services. It also included an Elmo video. Up to now, Elmo has been a big part of my daughter’s life. Elmo has been a special resource for potty training, transitioning from a crib to a big girl bed and providing education about healthy food. In a nutshell, the provided Elmo video titled “Talk, Listen, Connect” is about Elmo’s Daddy having to go away for a while and focuses on Elmo being brave. It is very cute and I can’t deny my daughter wanted to watch it over and over. However, one day shortly after my husband departed when she was acting up and asking for Daddy, I tried talking with her about being brave like Elmo. She was not impressed with me at all and replied “I don’t want to be brave like Elmo!” “I am angry!” I validated these feelings; however the Elmo video has yet to be watched again!
My daughter (11 months at the time) with Elmo
One piece of information that is missing in the deployment package is explaining “why” Daddy needs to leave. It does, however, discuss being truthful with your child – but honestly how truthful can you be with a 3 year old without scaring them! This is where “Mr. Taliban” entered our lives. My husband, upon being asked “why” he needed to go away for work, explained to our daughter that there was a man that wasn’t letting other children, Mommy’s and Daddy’s have food and homes and he needed to go help them. That wasn’t enough for my daughter who wanted to know his name - my husband replied “Mr. Taliban.” At first the fact that she would even utter the word "taliban" stressed me out. It just doesn’t seem right for a sweet, innocent child to utter such an ugly word. However, honesty, in a much simpler form of course, paid off and she is more than happy and quite proud to tell random people, neighbours, store clerks, family and friends that her daddy is away helping people who don’t have homes and food. She has even added to the story by saying “Mr. Taliban is very selfish and isn’t a good sharer.”
We are more than one third of the way into this tour. I know we have many more challenges and obstacles that lay ahead but we are just taking it one day at a time.