The young killers

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Lest we forgetIt occurs to me on this Remembrance Day that in all the wars ever fought, in all the thousands of generations where people have been killing each other and destroying things for some sort of political or ideological or territorial aim, the vast majority of soldiers have been younger than I am now.

I'm 41. Those who have battled and suffered and died, for causes good and bad and irrelevant—whether in a Roman legion, a phalanx of Aztecs, a Chinese Imperial Navy flotilla, a German army unit trying to gain inches on a muddy trench-cut battlefield, a revenge raid in the highlands of New Guinea, or a Canadian strike force in the Afghan mountains—have usually been young men, often boys young enough to be my children. And they have faced an enemy with that same face. Youths, sent to kill each other.

The context of how I face the prospect of my own death is quite different. Cancer is slower and less surprising than a bullet, a spear, a roadside bomb, or the hooves of an enemy horse. But those youngsters who have set out to war have always shared a knowledge: There's a good chance I won't make it.

Many of them did. Many didn't, and never got to see age 41. I'm glad I have.

2 Comments

A beautiful tribute, Derek. Thank you.

I agree.

I visited the military fort in Quebec City within days of my diagnosis last year. As I wandered through the ancient buildings, taking in the suffering endured by soldiers over the years, I was humbled -- and overwhelmed with gratitude for the peace we have enjoyed, for our generous health care system and for my already long, healthy life.

Remberance Day always brings perspective to life and you hav expresses it beautifully.

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