The Way I See It: Voting is a way of honouring those who served

Michele Blais looks at our right to vote and thinks of those who sacrificed their lives so we can enjoy the freedom we have today

“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow between the crosses row on row. That marks our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below.”

Lt.-Col. John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields in 1915. The war went on until Nov. 11, 1918. Sixteen million people died in that war which is often referred to as the worst, deadliest conflict of all time. Ninety nine years ago McCrae, a Canadian physician, penned the poem that would be read by school children, soldiers and leaders every Remembrance Day.  A day to recognize when the First World War ended and now to remember and honour soldiers of many wars. Since the poem was written, there have been many wars, military actions and thousands and thousands of men and women and children have died in battle in front lines or a victim of it.

The red poppy is a symbol to wear that recognizes the soldiers who died in war. There are white poppies being worn now as symbols of peace. The poppies are also a way to show support for the current military, a simple gesture that can be meaningful for past and present. Perhaps the white ones look to the future? A world living in peace. Imagine.

“We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Fields.”

My mom used to talk about the Second World War and having her friends die. She joined the air force and worked in hospitals. My father was unable to go to war, much to his disappointment because of a medical condition, so he worked building airplanes. There was a whole regiment from Mom’s community of young men she grew up with sailing on the Detroit River, playing baseball, attending school together, daydreaming on the dock about their bright futures. It all changed when the Second World War was declared and Canadian boys and young men signed up for active duty. Many lying about their age so they could go and fight the enemy.  In one horrible battle 25 young men from a small community the size of Armstrong were dead. Sons, brothers, husbands, friends, dead. This has been repeated time and time again: the telegram, the visit, the phone call. “Loved and were loved,” and the families and friends grieve, and wonder. Wonder about why they died, hoping it was for the right reasons that they sacrificed a life, and what their life may have been like had they lived.

“Take up our quarrel with the foe,

To you from failing hands, we throw, the Torch; be yours to hold it high, If we break faith with us who die. We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.”

This poem was created in 1915 and the First World War ended Nov. 11, 1918; that’s a long time ago. But as a country we are still taking up the quarrel with the foe, and that foe has changed over the years. Former foes are now friends — Japan, Germany — and will we say that in the future about those we battle today and will there always be a foe?

Canadian men and women have given their lives for many reasons, and our ability to enjoy our democracy and our rights and freedoms is one of them. One right we enjoy is the right to vote for our leaders of our communities, provinces and our country and have those votes mean something. And the right not to vote. However I have experienced those who don’t vote often have strong opinions of the leadership of the day yet do not bother to invest the time (and this has been improved to accommodate varied schedules) in the voting process or in putting their own name forward to hold office. Of course that is their right in our free society. To have an opinion that they can voice freely, I just believe it is more credible with participation in the process.

I hope our youth vote, join in and be a part of this, you can make a difference. If you  just do the math and all the youth in Vernon between 18 to 25 voted, and with the apathy of the other voters, they could significantly influence our community. Your one vote does count, just ask someone who has lost by one vote, or 20.

I’d like to thank all the mayors, council members and school board representatives who have served their communities for the past three years. Thank you for the hours and hours you have put in with reading reports, researching decisions,  attending various meetings, taking phone calls, chance meetings on the streets, in restaurants with the citizens; for the time missed with your family and friends, and away from better paying work. Thank you for the contribution you have made.

I also want to thank the individuals who are running for the various positions and wish you well. Thank you for stepping up and believing you can make a difference and wanting to take on this challenging task. I can’t help but think of Patrick Nicol at this time and I will miss marking an X by his name on the ballot this Nov. 15.

Thank you to those who organize the elections and to the voters who come out and say, “my community is important and I want a say in its leadership.”

There is always a connection for me between the poppy and elections. Please wear the poppy proudly, support our Legions, and vote. “Be yours to hold it high.”

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist for The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday. She has been working with families and children in the North Okanagan for the past 28 years.

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