It's a bit hard this Thursday to think of something I'd like to write about given the events of yesterday in Ottawa, just up the Rideau Canal from my home town here in Kingston, Ontario. Beer is fairly unimportant at any time. It is really unimportant at times like this. We are sharing stories, we Canadians, on social media and by email that talk to our pride in the murdered soldiers, both killed for no reason more than wearing their uniforms in public. Stories like this:
The news of Wednesday’s events hit members of the military, both past and present, particularly hard. Within hours of the shooting a Facebook and Twitter campaign had swept the nation calling on those who serve, or who have served, to stand at their nearest Cenotaph. “We have a bunch of old veterans that are going to be on duty across Canada at the Cenotaph, so I got off duty of my patrols and came straight from work to here,” said Ward. Soldiers in Edmonton have also been standing guard... “To let those a**holes that murdered our Canadian soldiers here in Canada know that they’re not gonna win,” he said. “I’m not the only retired veteran that’s out here. There’s going to be hopefully thousands of us to let them know you’re not going to defeat us.”
I am in the first generation that was not in war in my family. Nazis bombed my parents as children. Even though I am a centre-left softie with as many doubts of geo-politics as anyone, I've lived in military towns most of my life and, as an adult, I have ended up with a bunch of pals in uniform. And I have shared many beers with them. After games of vintage base ball a few years back against the grad class of our Royal Military College, I have had the pleasure of talking with some soon-to-be minted officers after the game in my favorite tavern. I asked one officer cadet what he was going to do after he graduates. He said he was off to lead tanks in Afghanistan. I asked another what her specialty was and learned how she was one of those who got out into the field to guide in the bombing raids. I had no idea what to say. At there age, I was wallowing and wandering. I had a decent pile of vinyl records.
So, I bought them pitchers of beer. Soon it will be Remembrance Day. Our national day of commemoration isn't about victories or empire, not about power. I think the thought that's been in the minds of most watching as the old men march by - vets who fought in WWI marching when I was a kid - is both gratitude and sadness that they did not get the normal duller life of a beer and a house and a job. Or growing old. Because we are all big softies we think like that. We are soft on them. And are lost for words by both this and this or, today, this. So, we buy them a beer. Or whatever they want when you are lucky enough to have a turn at buying the next drink.