As part of our national recognition of Remembrance Day,
each year in Canada on November 11th
we sing
“O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”  

Over the years, women and men have stood on guard, defending borders or peacekeeping in other lands on our behalf.
Some return home, emotionally overwhelmed by what they experienced.
Some return home, physically disabled.
Some return home, unable to find employment.
Some don’t return home.

Each year, our nation stands still on November 11th, to remember.
We stand still to remember their sacrifice, the sacrifice of their families,
and we are grateful to be living in this country.

But for the families of the fallen, they live with the pain of it all 365 days a year. 

I was reminded of that as our car passed the house,
and I noticed, clearly visible from the street,
the photo of a young man in uniform, hanging in a frame in the living room window.

It was just a photo, that’s all.
Just a photo.
Or was it? 
What was it about that photo that grabbed at my heart? 
What was it about that photo that created a deep chasm in my soul?
What was it about that photo that brought tears to my eyes and gripped my chest so I couldn’t breathe?

“It” couldn’t be named.
I only knew
that my soul had been touched,
my mind raced, 
my emotions felt
and I understood them not.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the salute.
The car’s driver saluted the photo quietly, quickly, calling no attention to himself. 
For a moment, the car’s driver was in another world
… a world that connected him to this young man
… a world that united them as siblings of conflict
… a world that reminded him of the fragility of life and the happenstance of circumstance.

He, in the photo, eighteen or so.
He, in the car, old enough to be grandfather.
And yet, for that one brief moment,
they were brothers.

Salutes happen
some place
every day
on every land
in every continent.

But this salute …
his one was different.

May we remember this day
and never forget.

© June Maffin

Photos of the “Wire Soldiers”  … ghosts of soldiers silently standing over their graves in the St John’s Churchyard, Slimbridge, Gloucester, U.K.


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