Letter: An Island ex-pat recalls the lessons learned from her veteran father

Today there is a different war to be fought in different ways with different means

To the Expositor:

November is a month of memories and remembering with Sunday, November 8 being National Aboriginal Veterans Day providing an opportunity to honour the more than 7,000 Indigenous people who served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, and November 11 being the National Day of Remembrance. With COVID precautions, all services will be scaled back as we fight a new war on the disease of COVID-19. Like our ancestors who served in the wars, making sacrifices, we too are making sacrifices as we fight the COVID battle which is bringing out the most heroic efforts offered by our front-line workers, health care specialists, businesses, as we all wisely wear masks, social distance, limit our contacts, get tested and encourage one another in isolation.

So, we are the current “COVID soldiers,” remembering the past war heros and heroines such as my father the late Duff Brown of Mindemoya, who served in World War II, fought in the liberation of Holland where his brother-in-law, the late Doug Wagg of Mindemoya, gave his life dismantling land mines after the war was over. My Dad, after the war was over, came home to Mindemoya while Doug was buried in Groesbeek Cemetery in Holland. Like many veterans, Brown rarely talked of “the War” but he would often wisely say that when the bombs start dropping and the bullets whizzed overhead, everyone in the fox holes believed in God. In other words, the memories of loss of life, bombs, guns, served as a reminder to him that God was present in the war years and is always present, and that we are not alone. It became the basis for his belief system and subsequently for mine too, for which I’m truly grateful. In other words, his war memories brought him closer to God and he shared that belief freely, drawing us in to the same belief. The Biblical sense of remembering is captured in his way of looking at memories, for the Biblical sense of remembering is to let the memories all point to God, and to take the past actions, memories and to use them as a spring board of knowledge to create a new future. So, if we take that method of remembering—that is to take the past and to use it as a spring board, with God’s help, to create a new future—then we are honouring God and honouring the sacrifices of those who fought for the freedom and peace we know today. Today we are asked to look back and to choose—to choose the things of God, the things that will make for peace.

And the message for us is the same message that every veteran of every battle or peacekeeping effort will tell you: everyone in the fox holes believes in a higher power, a Holy One, an “other.” Like those brave soldiers who served and fought we are asked to be the modern day soldiers—working for peace, striving for justice for all people, following COVID guidelines, and making a difference wherever we are.

What does that look like today? To me it looks like a different kind of war, one that promotes or acts upon human rights, respect, building understanding and compassion for others. May we promote the peace of evil confronted, injustice exposed and the striving for reconciliation a part of our living. Let us choose non-violence and use the Biblical tools, ideas and insights of Jesus Christ to craft peace, to shape communities based on love, understanding and compassion for others. Guided by the holy presence of a higher power, one who does not forget us, let us truly and prayerfully remember.

Rev. Jean Brown

Kingston, formerly of Mindemoya