Whenever Remembrance Day rolls around every year, it makes me think of all the incredible people I've been privileged to speak with regarding the topics of wartime, the military, and of course, remembering those who've come and gone.
I've been writing the news, telling the stories, capturing the images and publishing it all for over fifteen years, and if someone were to ask me what stories hit the hardest, I can tell you it was the things I learned from speaking with veterans of our world during wartime.
Like when the late Art Knutson of Elbow told me that he shouldn't have been able to come home from the war.
"You know, I suppose there were four different times over there that I should've been killed."
The way in which Art told me this on that warm Friday afternoon in May 2013, sitting in his living room, was equal parts incredible and armhair-raising. The fact that he could recall such incidents was highly impressive, but the way in which he delivered such a bombshell in a normal, matter-of-fact fashion left an impression on me that I haven't forgotten to this day.
A few years later, I had an amazing day during one particularly chilly Saturday in February 2018. This was one of those times where a story seemed to unfold before my very eyes. It was the 100th birthday of a Lucky Lake resident named Donald Couch, and I was invited to the celebration. "Sounds good", I thought. A few good photos of the birthday boy with some family, some words from the man himself, and I might even snag a piece of cake to go with my coffee, too! Oh no, Mr. Ruttle. This was going to be so much bigger.
First off, the fact that Donald's birthday was being held at the community hall should have been Sign #1. A massive turnout of family, friends and well-wishers were on hand. Secondly, upon learning that Mr. Couch was a war veteran, I very soon learned that a special fly-by was going to take place over Lucky Lake. Sure enough, I was soon standing outside in the brisk February air with about a hundred people, with maybe 40-50 of them pointing their camera phones in the air. Moments later, a massive Hercules aircraft bellowed above us, flying over everyone in a monumental show of respect for Couch's wartime efforts.
Without a doubt, that day will live on in my memories for a very long time.
Both Art and Donald have since passed away, but their impact on our world - and on me - will be felt forever.
Poetry plays a big part in Remembrance Day, and I came across a very lovely piece that I'd like to share with you. You can see it just below.
'Why Wear a Poppy'
"Please wear a poppy," the lady said,
And held one forth, but I shook my head.
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;
But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on care-free feet.
His smile was full of joy and fun,
"Lady," said he, "may I have one?"
When she'd pinned it on, he turned to say;
"Why do we wear a poppy today?"
The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered; "This is Remembrance Day.
And the poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war.
And because they did, you and I are free -
That's why we wear a poppy, you see.
I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.
He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird, he would race about.
As the years went by, he learned and grew,
And became a man - as you will, too.
He was fine and strong, with a boyish smile,
But he'd seemed with us such a little while
When war broke out and he went away.
I still remember his face that day.
When he smiled at me and said, 'Goodbye,
I'll be back soon, Mum, please don't cry.'
But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.
His letters told of the awful fight
(I can see it still in my dreams at night),
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.
Till at last, at last, the war was won -
And that's why we wear a poppy, son."
The small boy turned as if to go,
Then said, "Thanks, lady, I'm glad to know.
That sure did sound like an awful fight
But your son - did he come back all right?"
A tear rolled down each faded cheek;
She shook her head, but didn't speak
I slunk away in a sort of shame,
And if you were me, you'd have done the same:
For our thanks, in giving, if oft delayed,
Though our freedom was bought - and thousands paid!
And so, when we see a poppy worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country's call
That we at home in peace might live.
Then wear a poppy! Remember - and Give!
That poem was written by Don Crawford, and I hope it stirred something up in you as it did me.
This Friday marks so much more than just a makeshift long weekend. It marks a day where we can all do our part, wear our Poppy, take a moment, and reflect and remember.
Lest We Forget.
For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.