A century ago, on Nov. 11, 1918 at 11:00 am, the war to end all wars came to an end. At home, the idea of fighting for one’s country was glorified, but being on the battlefield was something no one could prepare for.
In WWI, soldiers suffered from trench foot (now known as athlete’s foot), a condition diagnosable by blackened skin and caused by long periods of exposure in cold water. Mustard gas was a chemical weapon used to kill soldiers by suffocating them. Many of those men were the same age, or even younger than, most university students.
So why does this history matter today? Well, when we go on vacations for a break from our busy lives, what tracks the plane and determines when it is safe to land? Air traffic control was invented in WWI so pilots were not totally alone as they flew out to battle.
During WWI, absorbent sanitary pads were invented, and primarily used as surgical dressings, until nurses realized that women could use them as a menstrual product.
I’m not saying that every time you go on a plane you should remember the horrors that people went through which, eventually, guaranteed the safety of air traffic. I’m not saying that every time a woman’s period comes around they need to think of WWI and the soldiers who fought in it. I’m giving this brief history lesson to remind us that everything we use today, even small things we take for granted like aircraft technology and pads, exist as a result of world history. It is easy to forget the sacrifices that were made to ensure our country’s future.
This year, especially because it has been 100 years since the First World War ended, do something different in honour of those men and women. If you do not usually attend a ceremony on Remembrance Day, get up that Saturday morning and attend one.
If you attend a ceremony, thank a veteran for their sacrifice and shake their hand. If they want to share their story, then take the time to listen, but respect that many do not want to relive that time in their lives. Acknowledge that they risked their lives for us and carry that memory with you to pass on so that the men and women who suffered or passed away in wartime are not forgotten.
It is not easy to do this, but they deserve recognition for their service.
I haven’t always attended ceremonies. Although I watched the one in Vancouver and gave my moment of silence at 11:00 am, it was not until three years ago, when I met my partner—who feels strongly about Remembrance Day—that I started attending the one in Fort Langley every year.
Only now, after attending a ceremony in person, can I grasp the importance of remembering. During that moment of silence in the cemetery, there are no distractions or comforts of home. I can only think of the people who gave their lives so I could be there. I will not miss a ceremony again.
This year I will make sure to thank a veteran. Let them be remembered and honoured.