November 11 was chosen for Remembrance Day as it marks the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War in 1918.
Armistice took effect at 11 a.m. — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This is the hour still at which we observe a minute of silence, now to honour the dead in both the First and Second World Wars, as well as other conflicts and peacekeeping missions in which Canada has lost military personnel. The heart of this remembrance remains our community cenotaphs. In the Cowichan Valley the sheer scale of the toll taken on the Canada and the world is demonstrated by then numerous monuments — one in virtually every community. Lake Cowichan has one. So does Duncan, Chemainus, and Cobble Hill.
The names inscribed on these monuments remember those who never made it home. But that’s not the entire list of war victims. For every name on the cenotaph there are many more who came home permanently wounded, both mentally and physically, by a conflict they could never have imagined as they dreamed their dreams of battlefield glory as they lined up to sign up. There are also those who remained at home, waiting in vain for loved ones to return. Their lives were also irrevocably changed by these wars.
While we have lost more soldiers in combat since then, nothing in our history has come close to the slaughter of these conflicts. And that is ultimately one of the most important functions of Remembrance Day. Using the memory of those terrible conflicts to make sure that they never happen again.
Indeed, the reality is that with the technologies now available to us, if there was ever to be another world war it would mean the end of the world. Nuclear weapons deployed by those nations that possess them would catastrophically destroy our planet, leaving it uninhabitable. In a world war, it is inevitable that they would be used. And those are just the most extreme of the weapons we now possess. Even without going nuclear, we are more than capable of destroying our world with the other weapons in our arsenals. Just ask any refugee from a war-torn country. The regional conflicts in progress are bad enough, but on a global scale, the death toll would quickly become unthinkable.
There are some things in this world worth fighting for. Sadly, these are often not the things we actually do end up fighting over.
So, on this Nov. 11, whether you’re at a Remembrance Day service or not, take a minute in silence to be thankful, to mourn, and to resolve: never again.