Remembrance Day Reflections
I asked my Social Studies 11 class to read firsthand accounts of Canadian soldiers from World War I and to show a sense of historical empathy by creating their own letters. Here is an excerpt from the stories they penned which will serve, I hope, as a tribute to those who suffered through the horrors of war, leaving an enduring legacy that we commemorate. Hearing them, I trust that you will join us in vowing, never again.
Mr. Steve Cowie
My Dearest James,
I cannot begin to express how much I miss you every day. The breaks between each letter you send feel like an eternity, as I have no way of knowing if you are alive and wonder if the next letter I’ll receive will be a notice about your death. I feel so helpless from so far away, James, and would feel so alone in the world if I didn’t have our children to comfort and keep me busy.
George keeps asking me when you will come home – I never know how to respond. I cannot burden his young heart with the truth; I don’t want to cause him any more sadness than he already feels with your prolonged absence. Elena is more observant – I think she sees the worry in my eyes, for lately she has been very helpful around the farm. She’s become quite the cook: her meatball soup is almost as good as mine!
Since you’ve been gone, I have reconnected with my sister, Jill. She moved into the area when she got word of her husband’s death, and came to live with his relatives along with our nephew, Henry. She’s great with George, who says he loves his new auntie. I cannot help thinking, though, how would I cope if I received the same news about you? I’m not sure if I could endure the pain it would cause. Jill seems to be doing well, though. She’s gotten a job in one of the new munitions factories built in town. Apparently it can be quite dangerous, but Jill says the risk keeps her focused on her work. I would also join the labour force for some extra money to spend if I didn’t have the children to take care of. Many women have also volunteered with the Red Cross overseas, and I wish I too could help men like you through the horrible events of this war.
Though the press tries to tell us otherwise, it is obvious that the war you’re fighting is not a victorious one. I see the men that have returned home, too wounded to carry on, and pray that you stay safe, wherever you are. There is so much pressure to enlist – I can’t go 5 seconds walking through town without seeing some sort of recruitment poster or ridiculous white feather girl parading around! I know Jill is quite worried about Henry. He’s almost 18 and all he can talk about is the war! The government is brainwashing us into thinking that leaving to fight is some sort of glamorous, patriotic duty! I can tell from your past letters, though censored, that this is not the case. What we experience here at home must be heaven compared to the terrors you face; we still have our own troubles. Food is scarce here as you can probably imagine, but I remind myself daily we are better off than many families and are lucky to have each other through this terrible mess.
With all my love,
Mary - written by Julia B, Mackenzie ‘18