November 11th

I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at the War Memorial this year. It was very good. My last November 11th was spent in a small town of 2,000 people, and this ceremony had 30,00 in attendance, so there was a big change! They shot off artillery of some kind during the wreath laying ceremony, there was a piper, (several), and a fly-over of fighter jets. Very impressive, and very stirring.

I always go away from November 11th with a mixed feeling of sorrow, anger and determination. I can’t even say why it happens, but I know I walk away with Winston Churchill in my ears and my father’s stories in my head. I am so proud of my family. I have had 4 direct family members in the past century who were in the military that I know of, and probably there are more in other family branches I’m not as familiar with. Just the idea of signing up to die if needed, and lying about your age to get in! It makes me want to cry, almost, to know those are the people I’m related to. I think I see November 11th a little differently from other people my age, even those who have grandparents and other relatives who have served. Maybe I’ve heard different stories, or I’ve seen the other side of the news, or what I don’t know, but it stirs in me a more visceral reaction than my compatriots.

Anyways, the ceremony its self was “bomb!”, but there was a non-pleasant interlude on the walk to and from the war memorial. Waiting at a crosswalk, I saw ahead a man in combats. This was not too far out of the normal, as there are usually military members in the downtown, and this was after all the 11th of November. However, while standing next to this man at the light, I noticed that he: was wearing the old-style combats in solid cloth, had no rank insignia, had his boots tucked on the outside of one pant leg, had mildly scuffed boots, was not wearing a hat, was not clean-shaven, and had a large wrinkle down the back of his jacket. From this, I deduced that he was no more military than I was. Thinking of viceral reactions, I was rather amazed to see how much this annoyed me. I skipped right over rising anger and went straight to icy wrath.

Maybe I’m making a big thing out of nothing, but I was really hurt to see someone wearing that uniform who had so obviously not sworn an oath. Writing two days later, my temper has finally cooled enough that I can think about this man without bracketing “man” in descriptive adjectives, but I still wonder what on EARTH that guy thought he was doing. I can think of two legitimate reasons. There is the possibility that he was wearing the uniform, which people now respect, in the hopes of receiving some positive recognition. The other option is that he was acting out of an extremely misguided sense of “support our troops”. For my sanity, I will choose to think that the latter explanation is most likely.

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