Remembering Remembrance days of my past, I look back and see a little Jenna sitting cross-legged and silent in the elementary school gym. A line up of 20 or so men and women would march in front of us, and a recording of Reveille was played on the school’s cassette player.
They carried their flags proudly and saluted with a crisp display of military perfection. I remember I was in awe of these men who stood before me; I was even related to a one of them. I would look up and see my great uncle Ray standing proudly among them and whisper to my friends even prouder, “I’m related to him.”
Looking back on my eight-year-old self, I recognize that I was proud that he was my uncle, but had I ever thanked him? To my recollection I had not.
As a child I understood only that he was in a war and had fought somewhere. I didn’t realize exactly what he had been through and what he and other veterans had done to be able to walk across that elementary gym floor in front of all of us kids.
A few years later he passed away and I recall going to his service. The next Remembrance Day service at my school he wasn’t there to walk across the gym floor. I was a child and I didn’t realize this was the last member of my bloodline whom had served in a war.
Looking back on this it saddens me.
As an adult with a conscious and quizzical mind, the realization of the opportunity that I had lost my chance to thank my family member for what he did was gone. Every Remembrance Day after my great uncle had passed an apathetic feeling was present in my mind. There was no personal connection to those standing before me, nor did I fully understand the hard ships these men and women faced.
As a teenager who cared little about anything, let alone the history of my family or thanking those who fought for my freedom these feelings of apathy grew.
It was until recently when I was looking through old family photos with my mother that my adult appreciation for Remembrance Day was sparked. We sat rifling through old photos and letters that my mother had collected over the years from our ancestors.
I came across a black and white photo of a man in an army uniform. My mother explained that this man was my great grandfather, or her father’s father, Herman ‘Brian’ Anderson.
As I looked at the photo, I noticed his nose first. This man that I had never met shared not only the same bloodline with me, but I had his nose as well.
It saddened me to know I had never been able to thank this man whom I shared so many facial features with and whom had fought for his country and his future great-grandchildren’s freedom.
It also saddens me that so many people disregard Remembrance Day, and spend more time and money worrying about what they are going to be wearing for Halloween.
With so few First and Second World War veterans left to attend schools Remembrance Day ceremonies, I worry that children will grow up to disregard the day as they will have no personal connection to relate the day to.
If parents and teachers don’t begin to educate children more on the history of their families and the soldiers come to pass whose suffering allowed them to be sitting in that classroom, we will be raising a generation who cares more about Halloween than they do Remembrance Day.
I can’t help but wonder who our children and their children will remember on this day and what the importance of this day will be to them.