Every year for the Rispin family Remembrance Day is significant. We are a one of many Canadian families which got the boots laid to them in the First an Second World wars. I have always appreciated the significance of my family’s contribution to Canada’s role in these wars but never so much as I do now, since my father passing in January 16, 2010.
He was a quiet man, never did he speak of the war of which he was a part, other than the most outlandish and far fetched stories one had ever heard but must be true. He bottled whatever he saw or felt about that war deep inside and never shared what he had really seen or endured during his 4 years sailing on the HCSM Hallowell in the North Atlantic. I am not even sure my mother knows everything he went through or what he saw as he was a tight lipped man. He was a silent in his remembrance and as a result my siblings and I are left to piece together what little he told us with what little we found in his personal belongings after he passed.
Although I have always done a little personal remembrance day shpiel since I have been a teacher, these past two remembrance days I have taken upon myself to share with my classes a very personal narrative. I go through what sacrifices that not only individuals from my family made but what these sacrifices meant to my family. I try to make the kids understand that Remembrance Day isn’t just about some long forgotten soldier but about how many long standing Canadian families will never be the same because of these wars. I try to make them realize that my family along with innumerable others, were irreversibly changed because of these wars.
I tell them about my Grandfather who died when my father was only 3 because of blood poisoning from a gunshot wound to his arm during the first world war. I tell them how my uncle was killed during a bombing raid over Düsseldorf Germany and that no one from our family has yet to visit his burial site. I tell them about George W. Silk and George W. Silk who were killed by the same shell in the same trench during the battle of the Somme in 1916. I even read to my class the 95 year old hand written letter by which my great great grandmother was informed of the death of both her husband and eldest son.
I tell them that a great masonry family who had a hand in building many of the turn of the century buildings in Vancouver and Edmonton, was decimated because of these two wars and that the skyline of both these cities may have been very different had these two wars never happened. I hesitate at times to tell these stories because I don’t want to bend history or overstate what some might consider insignificant but these stories are significant. It is the narrative of what brought us to this very day and a story all Canadians need to hear and appreciate.
It is incumbent upon those of us who are are descendants of those who navigated these wars and managed to maintain a bloodline, to share the significance of these wars.
My family is but one of many who gave selflessly to the dominion of Canada and we need to recognize that Remembrance Day isn’t simply about some long forgotten soldier. It is about long standing Canadian families that would be significantly different had it not been for these wars.
On this remembrance day, let us not just remember the ones who sacrificed their lives in wars both distant and recent but those who stand among us and sacrificed family members so we can be the Canadians we are today.