It seems strange in this day and age of ongoing war, global uncertainty and instability, to be reminiscing about a World War I battle that claimed the lives of some 3,500 Canadians.
But the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge is a good reminder that while most in our country remain steadfastly opposed to war, too often we forget that war is not just a fight between nations to be watched on cable news.
There are real people on the ground every day, sacrificing their lives for the good of country. People who were, and are, willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good.
For those of us lucky enough to be far-removed from battle-fields around the world, how can we comprehend what it was like to fight to the death for a cause greater than your own life? It just doesn’t seem like it is even a remote possibility, especially here in Canada.
And how many of us today would sacrifice ourselves and the material things that we have?
Thankfully we don’t have to answer that question and we are not sending our young people off to battle in this country. But back in World War I it was a different story as Canadians joined with their allies to fight against the German powerhouse.
Those involved had harrowing tales to tell, but not surprisingly, upon their return to Canada, there were terrible personal tolls to pay and they didn’t want to talk about it. Some, like Kelowna’s Victor DeHart, couldn’t deal with the anniversary as it came around each year.
They say our country was built on the battle of Vimy Ridge as Canadian soliders did what no one else could do before them. According to legend, the Canadians entered the war as a dominion of Britain, but left as a country of its own.
That seems to glorify what was a massively bloody battle and left so many dead. But from that battle—called the first victory for Canada’s army—spawned a nation that became peacekeepers with our troops dedicated to helping other nations around the world.
Historians say it was careful planning and determination that allowed them to take the ridge. And we believe that. For if Canadians are anything they are a determined lot and willing to help others above themselves.
We remain opposed to war, however we salute our soldiers and their families around the country on this sad anniversary.
Let’s hope we never have to do anything like it again.