Remembrance Day inspires several words to spring to the forefront of the conscious mind.
But to me, one word reigns supreme.
The Second World War set in motion a series of events that gave birth to even more moments, culminating in my birth. My grandmother, God rest her soul, found herself on the losing side when the war ended and so she went from living on a farm to living behind barbed wire. To her, the Germans were her people, her family. To the rest of the world they were monsters hell-bent on exterminating an entire race of people while enslaving the rest.
Fortunately, a Polish national-turned-United-Nations-security-officer took notice of her and from this coupling that defied reason came a journey to a foreign land. Soon, they had a little girl who grew to adulthood and became a mother in her own right.
And that, in a nutshell, folks, is the Secret Origin of The Hook.
I grew up witnessing what happens to a human being after they walk through the fire of war. When your soul is exposed to such an inferno the scars never truly heal. You feel the heat on your face all the days of your life.
My grandmother carried literal scars of those dark days; she had been a nurse and on one particularly dark day a soldier was brought in that had been exposed to acid; he began to convulse, exposing her bare legs to a chemical compound that left burns that never healed. Her wounds began to rupture as her skin surrendered to the ravages of time, but her positive attitude never faltered. My grandmother never surrendered to the demons of the past though if you looked hard enough, you could see every single terror she witnessed and lived through in the lines of her face and her beautiful eyes.
Paradoxically, my grandfather’s scars were internal, the result of losing his youth, his family and his circle of friends to the relentless beast known as combat. His trauma dictated his actions following the war and forced him down many a dark path.
Despite their torment my grandparents treated me like a prince. I grew up wanting for nothing, as they say. And this privilege causes me to feel ashamed when I reflect upon the horrors of war during this solemn day.
I think of this age we live in, with its many luxuries and creature comforts and I wonder what our ancestors would make of it.
This world, the one we take for granted to ridiculous extreme, was paid for in the blood of the innocent.
Young men, many of them blissfully ignorant in the ways of the world, were called upon to defend liberty. They did so on foreign soil, brandishing man-made weapons of destruction. Imagine, if you can, leaving behind everything you know to board ships and planes bound for the other side of the world. Now imagine being told that an entire race of people was your enemy. Finally, try to picture yourself on a battlefield, your face crimson with the blood of combatants on both sides, rushing at one of these individuals, someone your own age, and being forced to end their existence. You stand over their lifeless form knowing you and you alone are responsible for ending the life of someone you could call friend under different circumstances.
How does someone come back from that?
My grandfather never did.
I do my share of bitching and moaning about the sad state of my reality but the truth is this: I exist because two people fought their way through seven levels of hell to see their shared dream of a life free of killing and destruction become a reality.
Most of us spend our days dreaming of a better life. We follow the antics of privileged, arrogant celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kanye West, the Kardashian clan, without acknowledging the truth of their existence. I can only imagine what the heroes of yesterday would make of Bieber’s crusade through the free world.
On this day we should all feel a measure of shame for taking this world for granted. More importantly, we should channel that shame into the task of continuing the work our fallen brethren began, the construction of a better world.
My daughter feels a Moment of Silence is far from adequate to cover the debt we owe soldiers in every land. Initially I disagreed with her until I put on my uniform to serve the world in my own, far-from-heroic-fashion this morning. Then it hit me: Those brave souls put their lives on hold to push back the misguided forces of a depraved madman.