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Remembrance Day 2017

We are quickly approaching one of the most important days of the year to me, November 11: Remembrance Day. It has significance to me for two key reasons.

1. My father, RCAF member

My father was a proud member of the RCAF during World War II, which was supposed to be “the war to end all wars.”

Dad was a Flying Officer in the RCAF, serving as a Tail Gunner for 30 missions over Europe until his last official bombing run on D Day. One in two Rear Gunners died during this war, but Officer Bourne was one of the lucky ones. He survived two crashes, including one in which he was the only crew member to make it out alive. So he considered himself to be on borrowed time, from when the war ended in 1945 until he was well into his 90s.

Like many veterans, Dad rarely spoke of his time at war. Growing up, I watched as war became more technological and less personal. I worried that we would miss opportunities to record first-hand accounts of what it was like for my dad’s generation. Toward the end of his long life, I pushed Dad to recount his experiences, so I could better understand him, our past as a civilization, and the reality of war. I also wanted to document it for future generations, including my children. We need to remember the personal side of war more than anything else.

Dad never boasted about his victories or held a grudge against the German people. He always believed that, outside of the fervent Nazi party leaders and military commanders, everyday Germans were simply fulfilling their duty to their country – a core value that defined him as a person. Likewise, he considered his fellow airmen to be some of the best people he ever knew. I am proud of him and all the others who joined and fought on our behalf.

2. The war to end all wars?

Humanity continues to use that phrase long after the end of WWII… “the war to end all wars”! Yet, we continue killing each other over issues that never come close to being worth it. From “gorilla tactics” to high-tech missile technologies, humans keep on finding ways to kill. It seems hopeless that we will ever cease.

When will it stop? When will we learn to live in peace? There is hope, and we are finding it in places many of us wouldn’t guess.

Millennial hope

As someone on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, I do not directly know many millennials, except my own children and their friends. I must say that the ones I have met are, without a doubt, very impressive.

Bright, worldly, compassionate, and much more willing to see the “bigger picture” than my generation was. They broadly care about the health of our planet and the well-being of others who are less fortunate. These themes resonate with all the young people I meet. They seem less concerned with how much profit they can make for themselves and more interested in how to live a meaningful, healthy, and overall fulfilling life.

So, how does this translate into what is, in my opinion, the most important day of the year?

Studies I’ve read suggest that the generations after the Baby Boomers view Remembrance Day as important and significant for the future of humanity. They attend the services, understand the broader significance, and know why the date is used to remember the war and those who served and died.

They may not wear a poppy—speculation is that this group cares less of symbols than attending meaningful events (even though this rankles my personal baby-boomer sensibilities!)—but they do attend the service. They do participate in the moment of silence. They do reflect. This, along with their general capacity and propensity to care about broader issues and other communities, gives me reason for hope.

Maybe soon, the promise inherent in the saying war to end all wars will become a reality!

Lest We Forget.

~ Brent Bourne

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