Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. A day that started with the signing of the armistice at the end of the first world war. An armistice which, ironically, pretty much guaranteed that there would be a second world war...
But that's not where my heart is today...today, as on every remembrance day since 2004 I remember Chris Saunders.
I knew Chris when we both attended College Militaire Royal de St. Jean in Quebec. Chris was a year ahead of me, but as we were both anglophones in a francophone dominated institution, we knew eachother pretty well. I moved on to RMC in 1994, and Chris stayed at CMR to graduate. I never saw him after that, except for a brief encounter at the last ever Bavarois at CMR (Quebec version of Octoberfest).
After Chris graduated, he trained to become a Naval engineering officer, moved to Halifax, got married and started a family. Then, one cold dark night on the North sea, Chris died. He wasn't at war, or even on a peace keeping mission. Chris and his crew mates were bringing back one of our "new" submarines. I was living in Ireland at the time and the news hit me like a sledge hammer. His body was even brought to Ireland and then to Canada.
Its not a good image - its the only copy I could find on the internet from Chris's funeral. All of the pall bearers were classmates of mine who I hadn't seen in almost 15 years...
Chris's death really put life into perspective and cemented my decision to never serve in uniform again. No matter the trappings, the ceremony, or the traditions serving in uniform, in any role, makes you a part of a killing machine for the state. To ensure I am not misinterpreted here, please understand I have the utmost respect for our citizens who choose to serve, and a very clear understanding of the necessity of a military for Canada the way the world is today. I just wish it wasn't necessary.
I am sure I will lose more friends in the years to come. Its something I constantly dread. Every news story from every place our citizens are serving our country could be another...
So, if you really want to honour those who have served our country in uniform and still do - do what you can to make our military unnecessary.
Here's to you Chris. Je me souviens.
To all of my friends who are still serving - be careful and come home safe.