A Military Chaplain Remembers

By Pierre Bergeron

This week at the National War Memorial in Ottawa

On Remembrance Day I’m deeply moved as I watch young and old veterans with watery eyes lay a wreath or a poppy on a tombstone as they remember the time, the place and how their buddies laid down their life in seas, foreign fields and beaches.

That’s why survivors of war have made a commitment to “the fallen” to remember them. God help us not to forget.

Remembrance Day is a special opportunity to remember and honour the thousands of leaders, men and women who surrendered their dreams and ambitions. They laid down their lives to defend the very principles of freedom that our nation enjoys and so many seem to take for granted.  This day is also an opportunity to be reminded of the painful scars our veterans carry hidden in their memories.

We also must not forget our modern day soldiers who cannot erase from their memories what they have seen, smelt and felt, and who silently live with the pain and emotional scars that so many do not understand. For they too, have become casualties of war, and so have their families. These families are unaware of the images and memories that keep the mind and soul of their love ones in a state of brokenness — but they experiences the consequences of operational and post traumatic stress.

When I served as a military chaplain and led Remembrance Day ceremonies, I often used a Scripture verse that in my mind captures the motivation for the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier – “Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13).  For me, it describes the military member’s love for others.

Most soldiers I know love their fellow human beings and are committed to making this world a better place.

So what am I remembering this year?

I’m remembering WO Vincent and Cpl Cirillo who lost their lives in the last few weeks.

My mind goes back to Nov 11,  2007, as I led the Remembrance Day ceremony in Kandahar. We were honoured by the presence of family members of 10 fallen Canadian soldiers.

What an emotional moment as each was invited to lay a poppy and wreath next to the picture of their fallen love one at the Kandahar Memorial. There were very few dry eyes on parade that morning. Tears were rolling down ours cheeks as we reverently watched each family touch the picture of their loved one and momentarily freeze as hundreds of images went through their minds.

We were witnessing an intimate moment as these family members confirmed the fact that death is never cheap and always painful for those who survive. We were all emotional, because all of us knew that some of us would die during the tour. We all wondered  if the following year, our family members would be in front of the same memorial touching our picture.

I have on my office wall the picture of the 17 soldiers who did lose their life during our deployment in Afghanistan in 2007.

So yes, I honour the fallen and the veterans who are all brave and courageous men and women who understand first hand the words of Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for his friends.” We will not forget them!

Pierre R. Bergeron, Rév, CD, Directeur – Québec
L’Alliance Évangélique du Canada
(The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada)

Read a Faith Today story about how churches can help soldiers struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

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