Remembering isn’t always easy

Each November 11th, we stop our busy lives and remember our veterans, past and present, and honour their courage, service, and sacrifices. Hundreds of ceremonies take place across the country to commemorate Remembrance Day. It’s a day that unites us as Canadians.

For the generations that follow veterans, we want to learn as much as we can from them and their missions, partly to honour them and partly in the hope that we can prevent future wars. But for many veterans, remembering isn’t easy … not because their memory is failing, but because it’s so excruciating.

I read yesterday morning about Korean War veteran, Jim McKinny, who talks about some of the funny things that happened in Korea but who really tries to keep his mind off the war. He doesn’t want to remember the painful memories, especially of the close friends he lost.

I get it. My grandpa fought in the Second World War and would not speak of his time overseas with my mom (his only child) or with us grandkids. He left for war when my grandma was pregnant with my mom. Try to imagine for a moment missing the first years of your only child’s life. Now imagine being in combat during those years. My grandpa spent the rest of his life doing everything he could to try and make up for those lost early years with my mom and grandma. And he did a helluva job. As we grandkids got older, we grew more curious about his time in the war and would probe him about his experience overseas, but he just would not talk about it. Whatever happened, whatever horrific experiences he endured, we will never know.

My grandpa passed away in 1994 at the age of 88 and took with him all memories of his experience in the war. That was his choice. That’s how he wanted it.

It’s a nice gesture to genuinely and respectfully ask a veteran about their experiences in combat, but keep in mind that remembering isn’t easy for everyone. Some may have medical- or age-related reasons for not remembering; others may simply choose not to remember. And that’s okay.

Today, I remember my grandpa with pride and admiration. I am so proud of his contributions as a veteran. I thank him and all veterans past and present for their service and for all of the sacrifices they’ve made to keep Canada the beautiful and free country that we know and love.


My grandpa, William A. MacDonald

Sources: Regina Leader-Post, Veteran Affairs Canada website