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Remembrance Day


John 15:13 states: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”(NRSV)[1]


On November 11, (Canadian version of Veterans Day for our US readers), Canadians will be celebrating Remembrance Day. It is the day we remember our fallen soldiers and the past and present, veterans who protected this country and liberated others. It is a day we remember their sacrifices both in body, blood and soul. 


In Canada more than 66,000 service members gave their lives and more than 172,000 were wounded in the First World War between 1914-1918.[2]  In the Second World War between 1939-1945 more than one million Canadians served in this war.[3]  “More than 45,000 gave their lives and another 55,000 were wounded.”[4]Thousands more would fight and die in other wars including the Korean War, Persian Gulf War, Bosnian War, War in Afghanistan,[5] just to name a few.


Young and innocent, they stepped up to the plate and fought with all their honor and might.  My family was lucky that my two grand fathers fought in the World War II on Canadian soil. My great grandfather served in WW I abroad and another uncle, and some cousins served in other wars including the Korean war. For the sake of time, I will focus on my grandfather’s stories because these are the stories of men I once knew.


Both men were heroes like the other men and women who served this country in the past, present and the future.  Some soldiers saw things that only nightmares, gory documentaries or movies based off actual real life movies show.


I wish I got to know both of my grandfathers better and recorded their stories onto tape but sadly they died when I was a teenager only a few years apart from each other when I was too young to ask them to tell me their stories of when they served my country called: Canada. This is what family members told me.


My dad’s father stayed at the Montreal, Quebec army base where he trained the soldiers that went overseas.  He was supposed to go himself, but the army switched the eye chart on him, and they found out that he was blind in one eye which made him inadmissible to fight overseas never mind be in the armed forces. Instead, he trained the countless who left Canadian soil to fight in foreign lands. Some returned and others didn’t.  The family still has his helmet from that time. He was able to purchase a veteran’s home that was built just after World War II, a house that he raised two sons and a daughter in. His grandchildren would visit when they could. He basically lived there till the day he died.  He was never a rich man but he loved his children and grandchildren dearly.  He left a legacy for loving Christmas and the many Christmas traditions that started with him still continue to this day. I will elaborate more another day.


My mother’s father worked in the Canadian Air Force in St Hubert, Quebec and in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was a mechanic and worked on the air planes. We have several propellers from this time. One was made into a clock as a wedding gift to my grandmother.  It has a plaque from 1942 on their wedding day. Another is our pride and joy and hangs on our wall in glory in the basement.  We sadly don’t know too much about it aside that my grandfather had to get special permission to bring it home. We found it after my grandfather died. It has a small nick in the wing. We think it came from a trainer. If only it could talk.


We have a third one too that we assume my grandfather was going to make into another clock,  but he never did. We don’t know it’s story nor what plane it belonged to. Again we found it after he died.  My dad made it into a clock for one of my birthdays a few years ago. If only it talk. If only my grandfather could tell us stories about it.  If only these propellers could speak.  The stories we could learn and yet by his passing in the mid 90’s, these are stories we will never hear. Someday way down the road, they will be donated to the Canadian Aviation or War museum in memory of him.


When we were cleaning out my grandparent’s house after my grandmother (his wife) died about 17 years later, we found pictures in albums from the time he served.  We never knew anything them and sadly many aren’t labeled.  Pictures that show barracks and planes flying off to war. I would love to spend a day with him hearing his stories of the war. Growing up, he was a quiet man who loved his family dearly, but he never talked about his days he fought in the war.


My family was lucky.  Our family members came home.  Injured as my great grandfather was, but also proud that they served their country.  Others were less lucky and weren’t fortunate enough to make it back home.


At my church which is 189 years old, we have plaques on the back of the church that remind us of the young men who fought in the two World Wars with the names of those who died and those who survived. Their names forever imprinted in our memory.  There are even stained glass windows that line the front and back of the churches that were donated by two families after two heroes died in World War I.


The first young soldier died in 1916 by friendly fire in Verdun, France. Another soldier was killed in Viny Ridge. Four windows remember these young men’s sacrifices and have stood in memory of them in the present church building a decade after it was built. Prior to 1916, the church stood at a different location a few kilometers down the street.


In 1954, the church built a Memorial Hall, a gym and a large entertaining area in memory of the soldiers who died in the Second World War. In it hangs a flag that was donated by one of our veterans which hung on one of the boats that served in that war.


A quick glimpse of one of the stained glass windows behind the pulpit, the pulpit, and organ of this church can be seen at the beginning of the movie called Red 2.


Imagine the history and stories if these walls could talk? Other local churches that were built prior to these wars also have plaques that remember these soldiers. Sadly, many of these churches are closing these doors, the reasons why are best left for another discussion.


The motto: “We will remember them”, becomes true every time the congregation gathers as they see this window of a church member who gave his life so that others may live. The windows, for some reason always shines a little brighter at Easter. Perhaps that is another reason to remember?


Enclosed below is a poem about the propeller that was written by my father.



Once It Flew With Eagles


It hangs in a place of honour,

A relic from a war almost forgotten.

The tarnished plaque in its center,

Is a memorial not only to one man,

But to all the men and women,

Who served their country,

When service was the honourable,

And expected thing to do.

For fifty years it stood in a closet, gathering dust.

For over half a century, it never saw the light of day.

Till a memory stirred, in a veteran’s daughter,

A woman who remembered and with her memory,

Came new life and a new home.

Her strong hands gently removed,

The years of dust and caressed, its graceful curves.

The spirit that dwells,

In all things of beauty was awakened.

And the Spirit remembered.

Once it flew with eagles.

Once it took young warriors, safely into the heavens.

Once it delighted in their flight,

As they learned the skills, needed to survive,

In the world’s greatest war.

Once it gave so much to those, who gave even more.

The old warriors are dying off now,

Their deeds a fading memory.

But it remembers and it waits, for the privileged few,

Who admire, touch, and wonder at its beauty,

And at its secrets.

If it could talk it would say, with pride and conviction,

“Once I flew with eagles.

Once I was as one with the young men,

Who gave their all for their country.

Remember them when you look at me,

For they were the true Eagles!”


          Bruce G. L. Snair

                 (March 2004, Montreal area, QC )










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