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Remembering After November Eleventh

My father’s name is Alvin Gauthier. When I was growing up, I was always aware that my dad had been in the Royal Canadian Navy, but that didn’t really mean much to me. When Remembrance Day would come around, I would ask who in our family had fought in wars—distant cousins, uncles, and grandfathers. My dad would show up to our school Remembrance Day ceremonies where the grade eight class would recite In Flanders Fields and the choir would sing. He would show up in a special suit that I almost never saw him wear and a special hat. It took me a few years to appreciate that he was wearing his formal naval uniform. This was just a part of my life.

It wasn’t until one day someone asked me to thank my dad for his service that I realized that I was living with a veteran. I remember coming home from school and telling my dad what I had taken so long to realize, and he laughed. It was a short jump for me to realize that I actually knew quite a few veterans, my dad’s old navy buds—to him they were family and their kids were my cousins.

My dad will tell stories about his Navy days at every opportunity he gets. I have heard some of them so many times that I can tell them myself. My favourite being the time he accidently ate dog while overseas. (He didn’t know what he was eating until after it was too late). It’s a part of my dad is a person to talk about the Navy and to visit the ships whenever they dock in Windsor. It is under his influence that I always donate when I see cadets collecting money and each year I end up with multiple poppies.

I asked my dad what he thought it meant to remember: “What is remembrance to a vet? It’s a time to reflect back to the special kind of friendships only veterans can have. A time to honor those who have fallen and those who still serve. And those who come back without the ability to carry on as if all is good.”

I also asked one of my “cousins,” Brittney Wood, and her father, Tony Wood, who served alongside my dad. Brittney called her dad a hero, and they both agreed that remembering is something that reflects not only on the past, but also the present, and those who are currently fighting.

Remembrance Day is a day for ceremonies, moments of silence, hearing “The Last Post” played clear and strong, hearing In Flanders Fields recited slowly line by line, and remembering in a very public way. It is my personal thought that we should be remembering, in at least a private way, outside the first eleven days of November. It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, there are still hundreds of thousands who have laid down their lives in conditions we will never have to face to protect us from just that. Today we have soldiers who are fighting and laying down their lives as they tackle ISIS. Everyone who has ever served had or has a family, they were mourned, they deserve to be thought of more than once a year.

Today, the day after Remembrance Day, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to those who have fought for me so that in 2016 I can vote, go to school, hold a job, and live on my own. Thank you for making Canada a safe place for all ethnicities, races, and religions. Thank you for giving me freedom. Thank you for laying down your lives, for leaving your families, and for coming home broken.

Thank you to my dad, for the stories, for the laughs, and for your part in our country’s history. Thank you for raising me to remember all of the time. I do not think you would be the same person if you hadn’t served and by extension I would not be the same girl.

Thank you.

Former Editor in Chief of Her Campus Western, 2018-2019. I spend my time working towards and English degree with a minor in creative writing. My motto is, "do what makes you happy" - I don't know who said it first but it's some damn good advice. I love everything HCW related and want nothing more than to continue watching this chapter grow!
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