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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Scraping the Surface of Sacrifice

It is just over 9 years ago when Cpl. Nathan Hornburg was killed in action in Afghanistan as he was attempting to help his fellow soldiers whose vehicle was disabled.  I had worked several times
with Nathan, and though I was not particularly close with him, I was rattled by his death.  He was the first person I knew directly that was killed in Afghanistan.  During his funeral I was overwhelmed with emotion as I witnessed the pain experienced by his family and friends.  I specifically remember hearing about all his different interests and aspirations. I was taken aback by how similar my own aspirations and interests where to his.  That Remembrance Day in 2007 I found myself sharing drinks with a few of Nathan’s close friends.  We were engaged in rare conversations about the difficulties and pain experienced since Nathan’s death.  I was trying to help normalize the feelings being experienced.  Afterwards I was thanked for the conversation as it had been particularly hard for one of them to open up about his feeling.  I was unsettled by this experience and started evaluating aspects of my life and my service. However, I adapted back into the routine of life until I was once again brought face to face with this same situation in 2008.
                May 2008 we were delivered the news about the death of Cpl. Michael Starker.  This experience played out just like Nathan's story.  Having

worked with Starker in the past I was struck by the loss and pain experienced by those close to him.  He left his wife and family as well as many friends behind. One of my good friends was particularly close to him and was in Afghanistan with him at the time.  To this day he struggles with this loss.  It was at the funeral for Starker where we all formed up behind an ambulance and marched with him past city hall.  As we
worked our way along the streets the Calgary Fire Department draped a massive Canadian Flag from their trucks high up across the road.  As I crossed under the Canadian Flag I was struck by the thought that… “I have only scraped the surface of sacrifice”.  Less than a year later we would lose another, Sgt. George Miok.
                Sgt. Miok was my age and was killed in December of 2009.  Miok was part of my sister unit in Edmonton and we had worked closely with him.  The entire unit felt the sting of his loss. 
Miok’s death echoed the experience of losing Hornburg and Starker.  This was third time seeing the loss and the pain carried by loved ones and friends.  Even now I am seized by emotion as I write this blog, for I know that once again I am only scraping the surface of the sacrifice experienced by others.  These and all other Canadian Soldiers throughout time have not just sacrificed their lives, they sacrificed their aspirations, their dreams, and the hearts of their loved one which break upon their departures.  I cannot for a second pretend to touch upon the immensity of this experience.  When I attempt to empathise with one of these fallen soldiers and their families I am overwhelmed with sadness.  This sadness is a fraction of what they experience. 
“Lest we forget” for me is about attempting to connect with the unimaginable pain experienced by so many through the loss of just one soldier.  We must not forget the immense sacrifice they gave for their brothers in arms, the mission, their Country and the world.  I challenge you to consider battles such as Vimy, where 3,598 lost their lives in one day or how in the First World War more than 60,000 lost their lives.  Now think of Hornburg, Starker, or Miok and multiply that loss by 60,000 and you will see it is only humanly possible to ‘scrape the surface of sacrifice’.
                This Remembrance Day I hope you to will try to ‘scrape the surface of sacrifice’ and connect with the massive loss experienced by our Canadian soldiers and their families.  I hope you can step back from the media and video games that glorify war and recognize the dulling effect they have on our empathetic responses towards war.  I hope you can engage in active remembrance by learning about a story of someone connected to you or even a complete stranger.  Without this effort to actively remember we run the very real risk of repeating the choices of the past and subjecting our future generations to pay a debt which has already been paid in full.
I hope that through the creation of the Vimy Flute I can honor the sacrifice of all Canadian Solders and help other ‘scrape the surface of sacrifice’ with me.  May we create the better future which so many have sacrificed so much for.