Probably because he never thought he’d really risked his life, my father never joined the Legion or marched in a Remembrance Day parade. My brother remembers his medals showing up in the mail on a Saturday, almost a decade after the war had ended.
For every veteran in their beret in front of the cenotaphs next Tuesday there will be a few men like my father. As the years pass there will be fewer of both, and ever smaller contingents of men and women who served in Korea, on peacekeeping and UN missions in the Sinai, Somalia, Bosnia or Rwanda, or in Afghanistan.
Remembering will be hard work, but it has to be done, if only as a tribute to the men and women for whom history was anxious and unwritten, motivated by duty, and expecting little more than soldier’s pay and the hope that, at least one day a year, the rest of us will commit to the difficult but necessary task of remembering when history was alive.