Just a common soldier

 

lest we forget

“For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.”

I have always thought that Remembrance Day was important not to glorify war but to honour the ordinary men, women and children who have died in wars. This poem, written in the 1980’s by a Canadian veteran of World War Two could speak to many issues veterans continue to face. If you’re interested in finding out a little more about the author I’ve included a link below.

Just a Common Soldier
(A Soldier Died Today)
By A. Lawrence Vaincourt
He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.
When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.
It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/11/10/poem_written_by_veteran_republished_around_the_world_every_remembrance_day.html

War monument

 

Posted in History, Life, Political expression, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Tangerine leaves and caves with a view

It is hard to beat the fall season in our Northern hemisphere and this years displays of colours have been second to none. Now it seems that no matter how hard I try I can’t convey the rainbow of amazing colours that dance before our eyes…and this year is no exception. Climatologists are saying that because of our harsh past winter and wet summer the colours are especially vivid and my Bruce Trail hiking partner Cheryl and I can attest to that! Our favourite shade has been one that Cheryl describes as tangerine.

Tangerine leaves

On the trail this past week the contrast between the mossy, still green covered boulders and the fallen leaves was like looking through a kaleidoscope.

Fall on the Bruce

Looking out at the littered jewels from a cave where we sheltered from the rain, we happily munched our lunch and stayed dry…we wondered if others had sheltered here before us .

Cave with a view

I think this is my four-legged hiking buddy Ivy’s favourite season too. Her never-ending and futile quest to catch squirrels is at fever pitch as they scurry on the forest floor collecting acorns for the winter.

Four year old Ivy

Posted in Environment, Photography, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

Behind Closed Doors

womanseyeview:

Was ashamed to see how few had ratified this convention – Canada hasn’t and if you want to check on yours go to : http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:11300:0::NO:11300:P11300_INSTRUMENT_ID:2551460

Originally posted on Steve McCurry's Blog:

The women came from different countries with the same dream:
to leave behind the poverty of their villages.
But instead of working as domestic help, they found themselves in a kind of prison,
employed by people who treated them like something less than human.
One was stabbed with a knife, another doused in boiling water, another raped and jailed.

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Steve McCurry, best known for his work in war-torn countries like Afghanistan,
 documented the suffering of women from Indonesia,
Nepal and the Philippines who endured a myriad of abuses while
working for families elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East.

INDONESIA-10026 (2)

“They’re at the complete mercy of these people who see them almost like slaves:
‘You’re my property, you’ll do what I say,’” McCurry said.

CHINA-10228 (2)

“They go home, they’re disfigured, they don’t have money, 
and they’re psychologically scarred. 
They end up going home humiliated, and it becomes a stigma. 
In a way…

View original 187 more words

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Gnome without a home

Roadside gnome

There on the side of the road he stood with his dignity and smile intact but a little rusty around the edges. Where had he come from and where was he going I wondered as I momentarily considered placing him in my backpack. There have been some strange sights and some sad ones along the Bruce Trail…this rated as strange but what could be sad about a gnome who had freed himself from the constraints of his garden.

gnome with no home

Happy trails little friend.

Posted in Life, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 36 Comments

Floating Gardens

river flowers

How can this magical place still exist in the middle of a bustling French city?

Since the Middle Ages there have been market garden plots here at Hortillonnages in Amiens, Northern France. Though horrific battles raged on its banks during the First and Second World Wars it has lived to bloom another day.

Hortillonages

 

Birds and other wild creatures savour the richness of this wildness within a City.

Ducks

Around fifty small islands, connected by narrow, richly overgrown canals, are still farmed for vegetables and flowers and a market is held here once a week.

River entry 2

There is no electricity on the small islands and the cottages built there are modest but charming.

Riverscene 2

The traditional flat bottomed boats, resembling gondolas, ferry tourists around this bucolic and gentle place.

Boays Hortillonages

In quiet reverence we drink in the peace around us for just a little while.River entry

 

 

 

Posted in Environment, History, Photography, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 50 Comments

The dogs (and steeds) of war

 

!00 photos for 100 years

 

There are photo exhibits across Paris this summer, in sets of 100 to commemorate the 100th anniversary since WW1 began. They are incredible glimpses into this episode of our recent history. The one along the Champs Elysees was very moving, with different kinds of themes than I’ve seen before. I was moved to tears by many of them and so were others who perused these sobering images on this sunny Paris day.

Photos on the champs elysees

I have always had an interest in the way we have used animals in our human (not humane!) wars and this photo exhibit tweaked my interest yet again. Now as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I did have a grandfather who was a cavalier in the first world war – the so called war to end all wars – and have never been able to watch the movie ‘War Horse’ as a result.  The roles that animals played in the Great War’s battles is one of the poignant themes that ran through these public exhibits.

WW1 horse loading

It goes without saying that horses played a critical role not just carrying mounted lancers and fusiliers but also pulling the huge guns and supply wagons through the interminable mud of the battlefields. They were often killed or injured.

Injured horse

Dogs too were invaluable as messengers at the front lines, pulling and carrying supplies. These Belgian gunners counted on their dog teams.

Belgian soldiers and their dog teams

Dog kennels where dogs were trained were found all over the countryside in France.

dogs

In addition dogs were critical for finding wounded soldiers on the battlefield and medics worked alongside their canine companions. As this dog fitted with a gas mask shows they were expected to do the extraordinary.

Rescue dog

 

As one of the posters read ” Never have animals been better friends to man. Millions of them were mobilized during the war effort. Horses and oxen to pull cannons, messenger pigeons, dogs to seek out the wounded. Some would be decorated for their service on the front lines.”

The inhumanity we can inflict on each other is our burden but if I may anthropomorphize for a moment I wondered, not for the first time, what our fellow animals thought of us during this terrible time.

 

Posted in History, Horses, Photography, Political expression, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 40 Comments

100 years ago this month

Newspaper front

While in Paris this month you can’t escape the fact that it’s the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War. Front pages of newspapers and special photo exhibits across the city commemorated the momentus event.

French lancers

 

One photo on the Champs Elysees of French lancers started me thinking about the role of my grandfather, Thomas Penry Phillips, who was a British lancer.

Thomas Penry Phillips

He was a farm boy from Wales and so when he signed up at 18 years of age his horsemanship meant he was assigned to train other young men to ride the horses that were so critical to the First World War – the misnamed ‘War to end all Wars’.

Thomas Penry Phillips military riding instructor

When he was eventually shipped off to France neither his unit, nor their horses, lasted very long against the guns they rode into. He told me he was the only one of his comrades who survived their version of the charge of the light brigade. He was wounded and mistakenly thrown onto the wagon with other bodies only to be noticed when he groaned.

Thomas Penry Phillips and sisters

As the sun shone down in Paris 2014 you couldn’t help but marvel at the innocence of the young soldiers who went off to end all wars 100 years ago…nor was the irony of that pledge lost on those of us who took the time to remember.

Posted in History, Horses, Life, Photography, Puzzles and Contradictions, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 38 Comments