Wednesday, November 11, 2009

War Stories

With apologies to old hippies everywhere...

When I was a kid, we did a Remembrance Day assembly at school every November 11th. It was always the same. Our well-meaning teachers, who had come of age right at the time when Woodstock, love-ins and LSD were in vogue, yanked out the sheet music to such hippie-tastic numbers as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and put us to work celebrating the relative peace and freedom we continue to enjoy to this day.

I understand what they were trying to do, and I don't blame them for it. But I think those assemblies may have glossed over something very important. Remembrance Day is not about promoting peace. It's about remembering war.

On May 24, 1941, the HMS Hood was destroyed by the Bismarck at the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Some 1428 crew were killed, including my grandmother's little brother, a 21 year-old kid who, like so many others, had left the family farm to fight the good fight.

Every family has at least one story, from one point in history or another, that ends like this. So very many young lives were cut short to protect our freedom on this planet, and so very many others came home forever changed by what they'd experienced. The least we can do is to focus for one day a year on their sacrifices--ugly and unpleasant as those sacrifices were--and remember that they did that for us, and for our children and grandchildren.

Ten years ago, when I taught grade 3, I had my students ask their parents to tell them their family stories, and we made a wreath for Remembrance Day with the names of all our family members who had served in a war and what they did. I ended up hearing many stories. Every child had at least one name to put on that wreath, and I suspect some of them would never have had the stories passed down to them had it not been a homework project. I like to believe that in some way that that Remembrance Day project helped to keep those stories alive for one more generation.

This Remembrance Day, with his dad being overseas, Firstborn is showing some interest. My plan is to keep the frightening details of the Captain's work to myself for now. But I will also not be putting a daisy chain in my hair, donning a broomstick skirt, and hugging a rainbow as I croon "Blowin' In the Wind" either. Instead, I plan to tell my child the family story of my great uncle and the war in which he made the ultimate sacrifice. And I hope that one day, Firstborn will want to tell that same story to his own children.

8 comments:

Precious Gems said...

Hope you husband comes home soon.
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Tater Tot Mom said...

This is a great post and I agree that not sharing the tough stuff does a disservice sometimes (certainly not when it's their Dad though, I totally get that). Even now at 32 I've never heard the real stories about my father his army service. I wish I knew more...

laterg8r said...

i agree

In Real Life said...

Beautifully said, war is ugly, and we do try to gloss over that part. I think that your grade 3 project was a very meaningful experience for your students and their families. Passing on the story of your great-uncle will be keeping his memory alive in your family. I plan to share my grandfathers' stories with my children today.

Janine said...

Remembering all the people who keep us safe is a good thing.

Suburban Princess said...

Great post!

SPEAKING FROM THE CRIB said...

that was great - God bless you and yours

The Blonde Duck said...

I hope he comes home soon. What a wonderful message on Veteran's Day.