Ottawa is a fabulous city for many reasons. Being Canada’s capital city it has museums and monuments as far as the eye can see. It has our beautiful parliament buildings, the rideau canal, and a fantastic view of the Gatineau hills.
Plus it throws a hell of a party on Canada Day.
And on Remembrance Day there is nowhere I’d rather be.
You see, this is where the national war memorial is, which not only commemorates our veterans and our fallen from multiple wars, it is also the tomb of the unknown soldier. And now it holds a new meaning for my city.
I’ve only gone to the Remembrance Day Ceremony once, years ago on a cold, rainy November 11th when my mom and sisters were visiting. We got there around 11:00 and the crowd around the memorial was insane. I had no idea that that many people came out for the ceremony.
The Prime Minister, various dignitaries and mothers of the fallen lay wreaths, a choir sings In Flanders Fields, and there are fly overs, gun salutes and marching troops. It’s quite moving. I wish I could attend every year but with people arriving around 9:00 I just don’t have the mobility to make it. Not anymore.
I don’t always agree with Canada’s military choices. I wouldn’t have had us back up the U.S. in Afghanistan and I’m glad we didn’t go to Iraq. We should have done more in Rwanda and I have no idea where Syria will take us. Select members of our troops have been unspeakably awful.
And yet I still wear my poppy. It’s what we do here. Mourn and Remember, not have sales.
But there’s a more personal reason as well.
James Scannell was my grandfather. He was born and raised in Cork, Ireland and was a member of the Royal Air Force in WWII. He was a tail gunner with the Pathfinders and the Dam Busters, flying in the Halifax and the Lancaster. King George awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Flying Medal. He flew for three tours and 99 missions.
Have you ever seen the tail gunner section of a Lancaster? It’s fucking small. And you’re alone, separated from the rest of the crew. I’ve had closets four times bigger, easily. And my grandfather help that post 99 times. I can only imagine what it must have been like for him. I don’t know because he never talked about it and he died when I was 15, too young to appreciate the family legend.
I wear my poppy for him. To say thank you. To say I’m glad grandma found you. To say I miss you. But most of all to say something I don’t think I ever said in real life.
I love you.