by GREG LOCKE
Originally published November 11, 2016
ST JOHN’S, Newfoundland – I can’t do Remembrance Day anymore. Just don’t have it in me. I don’t mean it to be disrespectful. In fact, my respect is infinite. I have had relatives serve, live and die in the Canadian, British and American military going back to WWI. I’ve attended the National War Memorial in St John’s, Newfoundland with my father-in-law, a veteran of the Battle of Altona in Italy during WWII, and the rest of the old men many times. I have talked about war far too many times.
Today I have young friends, still in their 20s, who are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, and I see their pain. War never really end for them. I have been to wars and “peace keeping missions” in the Balkans, Central America, the Middle East and Central Africa. Bosnia, Kurdistan, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Haiti, Congo: all beautiful places with rich cultures and decent people, but which are now synonymous with Hell for so many.
While I certainly understand that a culture needs to maintain its ceremonies, traditions honour its dead and no, we should never forget, I never want to hear again canned platitudes like “ultimate sacrifice” and “lest we forget”. For me it trivializes human suffering. Just official words we are trained to mouth. And, because humans do forget. Witness their continuation of mindless self-destruction. Witness how our soldiers and other victims of war are treated even after conflicts end. The one time we can do something to help veterans and victims we demurr and they have to find their own governments for compensations and respect.
I keep this photo gallery on my website to remind me that Remembrance Day is not just about the old men and cold somber ceremonies at sterile monuments around the country. It reminds me of the soldiers, aid workers, civilians, journalists, friends I met, lost and worked with in Bosnia, and the people I know now still suffering from war.
Nobody comes home unscathed.
Copyright Greg Locke 2016
Greg Locke is a founder and the managing partner, visual, of Canadian Journalist. He built the website, produces photo essays, reports for Dispatches, writes and photographs Think magazine pieces, and contributes to the blogs. Visit his website at www.greglocke.com