I began participating in Remembrance Day ceremonies at the age of 13. I was a Pathfinder in Girl Guides. At the time it never crossed my mind that Remembrance Day wouldn’t be about one day of the year for me.
As a military wife I attended my first military funeral when I was 23 years old. I didn’t know Master Corporal Mark Isfeld, nor had I ever met him, but as I sat in the church in Chilliwack I witnessed the grief of his comrades. I watch the tears stream down military spouses’ faces. I saw Mark’s wife and his family sitting at the front church.
I had no idea what they were thinking or what they were going through. All I knew was that they would never touch him, see him or hear his voice again. I wanted to cry, but my 23 year-old mind told me I didn’t have a right. I didn’t know him so I couldn’t understand the loss his family was facing. The year was 1994. Mark had been killed by a land mine in Bosnia.
It would be a year later that I would attend my second military funeral. This time I knew the soldier and this time I struggled to hold back my tears. It wasn’t that I was afraid to cry – again I just felt I didn’t have a right. I knew Corporal Brian Kormendy. He was a tall man with a large grin.
Brian’s funeral was at the church where he was married. Where his casket now lay, he and his bride had stood less than a week earlier, pledging their love for each other. This day, she was not standing at the front of the church; she was sitting in a pew at the front of the church. A few of their wedding photos were on display beside the casket. Brian was killed while training for a mission to Bosina.
I would attend my third military funeral in Edmonton six years later. It would be someone I did know. Someone our family knew. I suppose I didn’t know Mark well enough. If I had I might have know the demons he was trying to slay in his mind. The thoughts that life might be better if he wasn’t alive. When I looked back over the last three weeks of his life I remember his sadness. The look he had was one of being overwhelmed and struggling with living life on life’s terms. I was 29. And I cried.
It was just over two years later that I would attend the memorial for the four PPCLI soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan, Corporal Ainsworth Dyer, Private Richard Green, Sergeant Marc D Leger and Private Nathan Smith. The incident shocked the whole military community as well as Canadians across the country. I remember Marley Leger, Marc’s wife, on the news sharing memories about her husband, as well as, the other families sharing stories about their sons. I didn’t know any of them but I cried.
The next funeral I attended was for Sgt Shawn Eades. I had never met him, but I had met his wife at a barbeque when Shawn was deployed on his first rotation to Afghanistan in 2002. As I sat in the bright sun filled room at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa I cried.
People spoke about Shawn and the pride he had for wearing his uniform and his love for his girls, his wife and their two daughters. The thought of his girls growing up without their dad makes me tear up as I type. Sitting in the funeral home I came to terms with the fact my husband was deploying to Afghanistan in mere weeks and there was no guarantee he would be coming home alive. Shawn was killed by an IED in Afghanistan, along with Corporal Dustin Wasden and Sapper Stephan Stock.
The most recent military funeral I attended was for Sgt Greg Kruse. Him, I knew. His wife is one of my closest friends. His girls are an extension of my family. Him I sobbed for. Him I was in disbelief over. I didn’t know Greg very well. When we did run into each other we chatted. I cried for his family as I watched them come to terms with their grief. I witnessed first hand the depths of despair that military families experience when they lose their military member. Greg was killed by an IED in Afghanistan.
When I attend a Remembrance Day Ceremony today I cry. I remember Mark, Brian, Mark, Sean, Greg and the other men and women who have died for our country. But it is not just on Remembrance Day I remember them, it is throughout the year.