I wonder.

As I watched the planes fly in formation overhead, to honour those that we are remembering today, I wondered to myself how it would be if instead of looking at those planes and thinking how amazing they are, that I looked at them and feared for my life. I hear those planes from far away, before they reach the Cenotaph in my little town, and I anticipate their arrival. But what if upon hearing those planes, I knew I only had seconds before bombs began to fall, and my little town, my home, and my life were all but destroyed?

What if those planes reminded me of something? Reminded me of walking through a forest I didn’t know, in a land I never really thought about much before. The sound of those engines transforming the careful steps of my best friends, into the sound of running fear, as we all dove into foxholes and threw our hands over our heads, thinking that would save us. What if the sound reminds me of the moment when I can no longer hear those planes over the sounds of my best friends screaming, in pain, and begging me to kill them.

What if the sound of those planes takes me back to the place I drank myself away from? The place where I saw things I can’t ever forget, the place where I did things I will never forgive. That same place that I refuse to talk about, even when my grandchildren sit on my lap and ask me to tell them all about my time there.

What if the sound of those planes, though, remind me of the last time I heard them? When they were flying overhead as I stood on the deck of my destroyer and cheered; when they dipped their wings as they flew past us when we were walking freely from the forests that held us captive, and we talked with one another about nothing in particular for once; when the nurses wheeled us, bandaged and broken, outside so that we could smoke our cigarettes in the cold, fresh air, and talk of home as the planes, for once, slipped past ignored…

But now, today, the sound of those planes reminds me of only one thing… It reminds me to never, ever forget that so many people sacrificed so much in order for the rest of us to never have those memories. How do you thank someone for that?

No words are ever enough, but I’ll give mine honestly, and with deep respect, gratitude and reverence:

Thank you.