It was decades ago, now. A high school friend and I were rummaging in her parents’ basement, looking for the other half of a croquet set, or was it badminton? I came across some army apparel: boots, well-worn; heavy overcoat; a full uniform. At the bottom of the pile lay a helmet.
It bore the stripes denoting the rank of the solder: Colonel. It belonged to my friend’s father. The thing was, the helmet had a clean bullet hole in it, ingress front left, egress back left. His division was fighting in close quarters, as the Second World War heaved itself towards a conclusion. Yes, he was wearing the helmet, so the bullet missed him by millimetres. Nothing abstract about it at all.
As we pause for Remembrance Day, it is always good to keep in mind the little sacrifices—which led to bigger sacrifices, and ultimately to triumph—that were made, are still made, on our behalf by Canadian armed forces personnel. My friend and I had gone looking for a simple activity that day, so many years ago, but what we found instead was a deep appreciation for those who came before us—something far less fleeting than a game of croquet.