(We’re reprinting this post from last year for two reasons. One, people enjoyed it. Two, it is as meaningful now as it was last year)
We understand the concept of Remembrance today, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. We are taught from a young age that we should take two minutes, once a year, to reflect on their sacrifice and their gift to the rest of us. This is good of course, we should do this, it is important and our obligation as citizens.
Except it isn’t quite that simple. As the veterans of various conflicts age and pass away, we lose the connections to the actual people involved. True, the veterans of Korea, Viet Nam, peacekeeping missions everywhere and Afghanistan are still mostly with us and are as deserving of our thanks and respect as any veteran of WW2, but there aren’t as many of them, the lens of history often distorting how we perceive their battles and conflicts.
One veteran we’re familiar with wasn’t a front-line warrior, didn’t bomb the Ruhr from a Lancaster, or survive years of detention in a Stalag, fighting heroic battles. He signed up in September 1941 with the Royal Canadian Air Force, learned how to fly, then learned how to instruct flying. Serving only in Canada he was one of the thousands who taught others to do their duty, watching them graduate, then embark for Europe, to continue the fight from above.
He rarely talked of his service, only occasionally reflecting that he never got to serve overseas, but understood his role of flight instructor, developing others to bring the fight forward. His service was one of support, a cog in the great machine, more valuable at home, teaching others. His contribution was as valuable as any and we still recall his quietude on November 11th every year. What he was thinking of, we will never know for certain, as he never talked about it, keeping his feelings inside. That was the way it was done in his generation.
On one occasion we saw that reserve slip ever so slightly. We were at the Canadian Air and Space Museum, at the display of the Lockheed Hudson. You could see the memories flash behind his eyes, the long hours of training, the faces of the students, the drone of the engines and the continual static mush of the radios. He looked the aircraft over, appreciatively, with a knowing familiarity, pointing out a few of the features of the aircraft had that he liked, or used every day, as one would appreciate the picture of an old friend, stories linking from small details, brought up from memory of how the Hudson was a bugger to trim and how the structure around the pilot’s seat would always catch the students around the kneecap the first time they climbed into the seat.
Known to the RCAF as J-50540 he left the RCAF as a Pilot Officer in 1945, transferring to the Reserve Special Section, then back to civvy street and the rest of his life.
Reading his Record of Service is but a tiny sketch of his involvement in the War. A small part, a valuable part and a very personal part of one person who served. He is who we think of at the hour, our personal connection.
If you don’t have a personal connection, you can always borrow ours, with respect and thanks for his quiet contribution.
His name was Russell W. Scott. He was my father-in law.