Why Don’t We Remember?

Why Don’t We Remember?

Posted on October 24 by Sean E. Livingston
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“I had no idea...!”

I’ve been hearing that statement a lot lately (or variations of it), especially since my book has been released.  The history of HMCS Oakville, a Second World War corvette that served Canada with distinction, is unknown to most.  Citizens of the town of Oakville have no idea that their town had such close ties to its ‘adopted’ corvette and, for the most part, Canadians are unaware of the courage and daring exhibited by that small, yet incredibly tough, ship and crew.  After having done presentations about the history of HMCS Oakville for many years now, the response doesn’t surprise me, and I am truly delighted to see that people are beginning to realize the importance of the ship in our country’s history – the spark, nearly extinguished, has received a vibrant breath of air and is now alight!

… but I am still left wondering why?  Make no mistake – I am proud to have brought this history back from the edge of oblivion but part of me feels that the opportunity should never have been made available in the first place.  Why did people forget?

There are, perhaps, many answers to this, but one that seems to creep up the most is that for some, celebrating our country’s military achievements is seen as akin to glorifying war.  It’s around this time every year that some people try to push the incredibly silly and, frankly, down-right offensive idea of wearing white poppies instead of red.  The argument: make the poppy white to signify peace… and somehow not one of them realizes that the red poppy is already a symbol of peace.  Have they never attended a Remembrance Day ceremony?  Have they not felt the pangs of sorrow when hearing the last post?  And did the name of the event – remembrance – somehow escape them?  The motto of the legion is lest we forget – the fear of forgetting the costly sacrifice of war. 

Our military history is something that shouldn’t be shunned.  Never talking about war can have grave consequences, especially if people forget just how terrible a thing it is.  We need to know that when celebrating the courage and sacrifice made by those who served (and currently serve) our country, it is not a glorification of war itself; rather, it is an acknowledgment of the selflessness, beauty, and sadness that are present in the act of putting one’s life and limb in harm’s way to protect others.  When, for example, we honour an everyday citizen who risked serious injury or death to protect a person from being robbed, are we fearful that by recognizing the person’s courage we will, in turn, somehow celebrate the crime of robbery?  No, and neither should we be afraid to honour the courage of those whose sacrifices have given us the luxury of choosing whether or not to remember them.  It does not glorify war, but honours and thanks those who gave up their chances of happiness and freedom so that we may have ours.  If you value your freedom, thank a veteran.  It’s not only alright to be proud of our military history – it’s part of being a good citizen.

Sean E. Livingston

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
Sean E. Livingston photo

Sean E. Livingston

Sean E. Livingston is a Naval Reserve officer with the CAF, as well as a teacher and Sea Cadet instructor. For over a decade, he has researched and promoted the history of HMCS Oakville, keeping its memory and story alive. He lives in Burlington, Ontario.