I trained hard at the gym this morning. But not like my life depended on it. When I biked to work no one tried to cut me down on my route. And despite my deadlines, stress and getting chewed out by my boss, I was never in any real danger as I performed my job.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter innocently asked me why we celebrate Remembrance Day. Her class was learning about the poem In Flanders Fields at school and she was curious why we choose to honour an event from so long ago. As I tried to form an answer that was both truthful and accessible for a 6 year old, it made me examine why this is such a poignant occasion for me personally.

My Gramps fought for Germany in WWI. He earned two Iron Crosses for bravery but never once spoke of his experience. My Grandpa was different. He fought for Britain. A wiry little Welshman, he loved to tell us how wounded soldiers cut down in no man’s land would call out their weight, rather than calling for help. The theory being a lighter man would have a better chance of being picked up and carried back behind the line by their comrades. At 135 pounds, he’s sure that’s the reason he was saved. Then there was my Uncle Fritz. I remember he always wore long sleeves, even during the hottest prairie summers. Years later I found out he had been captured by the Russians and wore long sleeves to hide the ominous POW number branded into the back of his hand.

Barely out of their teens when they were called up to face the horrors of war, my family members were lucky. They survived when so many did not. It got me thinking of the debt our society owes those brave individuals who paid the ultimate price and if the ceremony and minute of silence on November 11 is enough? Especially considering the retail frenzy that ensues less than 24 hours later as stores go full on bat shit crazy trying to squeeze out every last moment for their Christmas shopping blowout sales.

The freedom and security you and I (and those retailers) have today is because of sacrifices made by others. Men and women who were either drafted or who chose to leave their loved ones, travel to a strange land and risk their lives for future generations and those who stayed behind.

That tradition continues today with the people who serve in our armed forces as well as police, fire, search & rescue and first responders. The immeasurable contribution and sacrifice of these brave men and women can be directly attributed to the freedom, business and the very lives we enjoy today.

Why do we still honour the events from 1918?

Because courage does not have an expiry date.

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Written by Rik Klingle-Watt

About the author

Rik Klingle-Watt is a soulpepper and the writer of Not Business as Usual, an award-winning documentary about disrupting the business quo.

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