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A day in 2005, a lifetime of memories

By Theresa Trant

Normally I write about worker safety. But today I’m writing about something different. I want to tell you about a moment of time I’ll always be grateful for.

In 2005 my husband and I took our then 10 and 12 year old sons to Europe. After completing a 250 km bike trip through the northern part of The Netherlands, we headed into France. My husband wanted our sons to learn more about World War I & II. What better way to show them than to visit Dieppe, Juno Beach and Vimy Ridge. Along the way he explained the events that happened and how it impacted the world at that time. His explanations brought life to each area we visited.

One of my most memorable moments was touring the grounds of Vimy Ridge. We walked through the tunnels in which Canadian soldiers walked in April, 1917. We stood in the trenches and realized how close the Canadian and German soldiers were to each other.

The landscape was very uneven due to craters and small hills. These are now covered in grass. We learned that, after the war the uneven ground was purposely left that way because of the unexploded shells buried below. The grass cannot be mowed because of the risk of explosions. Instead there are sheep throughout the area that eat the grass. Sheep, while they don’t look it, don’t weigh much and consequently offer the perfect solution to keeping the grass short and avoiding injury. We were assured that there hasn’t been a sheep lost yet.

Past the uneven grounds are two cemeteries. One contained only Canadians, while the other was a mix of soldiers from various countries (Australia, Morocco, Egypt, Canada, Great Britain, etc.). The youngest Canadian we found was only 16 yrs old when he died. He must have lied about his age when he joined the army. It’s hard to imagine a 16 year old going off to war.

This place had death etched in the tunnels, trenches and the landscape on which we walked.

So why would I be grateful for this memory? That’s a tough one to explain. I’m grateful because it caused me to pause in my life and reflect. It made my history lessons as a child become reality. It made me appreciate the peace I enjoy today. It made me appreciate the freedom my children enjoy. In an odd way this land of grief gave me peace.

On that day, war became as close to reality for my sons as it could get. I will never forget my oldest son sitting on his hunches staring at the tombstone of the 16 year old boy, realizing that this boy (or should I say man-child) was only four years older than he was.

Remembrance Day ceremonies took on a new and different meaning for my sons after that trip. I know that the words my youngest son wrote below are words drawn from experience, words that reflect the meaning he took with him that day:

 In Flanders field, the poppies grow, row on row. The poppies grow for those who died. They grow for those who grieved. They grow for those who lived. They grow for peace. And now that the war is gone, we are happy. We are happy for the knowledge that the peace is kept. But we are also sad. We are sad because people died to keep the peace for you. So on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month bow your head and think. Think about the poppy, the war, but also think of the soldiers that gave their lives and are now resting forever in Flanders field, where the poppies grow row on row.

A day in 2005 and a life time of memories. Take one moment at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month and remember.

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