Growing up with a father in the military, I remember what it was like to have Dad gone for weeks on course or on a training mission. Never combat though. He was never deployed for months at a time in a foreign country that hated him. My dad was an F-18 test pilot and, as much as he may have flown patrol on Soviet airspace, he was never in a situation where anything more than his jet and his skill flying it would put his life on the line.
I have a great uncle who wasn’t so lucky. He was a pilot in WWII and survived the war. In fact, the only injury he sustained was a shot that grazed his cheek during a dog fight. It was a week after peace was declared that he stepped on a land mine and was killed instantly. One of those situations that could have happened to anyone, but happened to him. His wife, my aunt Mary, was his childhood sweetheart and he never got to meet his son. She never married again. Said that she had only good memories of her time with my uncle and that no other relationships could ever hold up. She owned an antique shop in Toronto, raised her son and spent her life living in those memories.
My dad did have a couple close up encounters with war though. He spent months working in a refugee camp. People and families that weeks earlier had lived in homes like ours and worked as doctors, lawyers and bankers that now had nothing. He also had to investigate a friendly fire incident where Canadians were killed. There’s so many sides to war. Even if these wars aren’t here in our country, there’s just so many people that need help all over the world.
I’m grateful. Grateful to everyone that has fought for freedom, even if they spoke a different language or have different beliefs than I do. Grateful to everyone that has put their life on the line to ensure that there are certain rights that all humans are entitled to. Grateful to those that have died following orders in missions they may or may not have understood. Grateful to the military and aid workers’ families that, unlike mine, never saw their loved ones come home. Or, if they did come home, they weren’t the same people that left.
To all of you, thank you. And not just today, but every day.