Friday, 8 November 2013


The clock tower strikes eleven. Straining for more strategic views, the crowd presses forward to the cenotaph. A sea of black centred red poppies, like the blood stains of war, dot jacket-covered hearts. Oblivious to the crush surrounding me, I cannot tear my eyes from him.

Dressed in a beret and blue jacket, wrapped in a warm blanket and hunched over in a wheel chair, he stares forward, his mind elsewhere. Is he standing, nauseated by fear and tossing seas, on a landing craft moving towards Juno Beach? During a tense submarine watch, is he bracing himself against the bone numbing chill of the North Atlantic as his ship guards a convoy crossing between Newfoundland and Great Britain? Is he hearing the screams of an injured comrade in the rear of his flak-damaged Lancaster as he desperately fights the controls, struggling for a life saving landing?

Sparse white hairs escape from under the edges of his beret. Bushy eyebrows frame a forehead creviced with wrinkles. Rosacea mottled cheeks highlight a wizened face hiding what scarring memories, I wonder. Random tremors move through his feeble, gnarled hands. His presence, difficult as it must be in his advancing years, honours a solemn duty to remember the fallen.

Veterans and young service men are piped in. Choking back tears, I join in the highly emotional singing of O Canada. Prayers are intoned and wreaths laid. As the lone bugler begins his haunting lament, the last post, tremor intensity in my hero's body increases. As if a phantom makeup artist has been at work, red circles ring his brimming, roomy eyes. Salty tears spill down his cheeks - each tear a fallen comrade.

In a need to reach out and express my gratitude, I push forward, but lose him in the crowd's surge. Alone, staring up at our glorious flag, its maple leaf bravely and safely fluttering in the November wind, I whisper, "Thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice. I will never forget"

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