As Remembrance day arrives again, and people around the world (or at least the Commonwealth) take time to remember the sacrifices of so many young men and women in too many wars, peacekeeping missions, and 'police actions', it is also a good time for individuals to look back on their own family members and extended family members who served. Whether they were killed, injured, or simply gave years of their lives for the common good, it is worth remembering what they did for all of us.

For my family, this year also marks the first Remembrance Day in which I have military records for both of my grandfathers. (And for those who are Canadian, or have Canadian family members who were veterans, I would mention that Library & Archives Canada has a program in which they will mail individuals photocopies of soldier's service records, in cases where privacy laws permit it.)

My paternal grandfather,George Bird, served for two years in the Royal Canadian Navy on the east coast of Canada. (There is some dispute between the records and family histories as to whether he served two years or six years. It would appear though that he first did four years as a civilian contractor working for the Western Air Command in British Columbia, before formally enlisting in the navy in 1943) He officially joined the navy at the Naden base in Esquimalt in March 1943, but by the end of June he was shipped to Stadacona in the Canadian maritimes leaving behind a wife and two young children (my father was only 11 months old when his father enlisted). As a carpenter, he would work on ships and buildings at naval bases Stadacona (Halifax,NS), St. Hyacinthe (Montreal, QC), Fort Ramsay (Gaspe,QC), and Peregrine(Halifax,NS). He was finally demobilized on September 27, 1945 and awarded a Canadian Volunteer Services Medal for his efforts.

Meanwhile in Saskatchewan in 1942, my maternal grandfather Ernie Frazer was a 24 year old farm worker looking after his mother and siblings by working on his parent's farm and the farms of other local families. He and his brother, and two friends, went to the Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting center and tries to enlist. Only Ernie was accepted, and was sent by train to Ontario to train. After his training was completed, he was assigned to the British Columbia coastal patrol, where he was placed in the construction corps, responsible for carpentry and mechanical repairs on the air force bases. By 1944 he had impressed his commanders and was promoted to flight engineer on a CANSO flying boat, making him responsible for navigation and general duties during patrols. In the Fall of 1944 he was assigned to retrieve the bodies of another flight crew that had crashed and died, an event that still troubled him sixty years later. In December 1946 his service ended, and he was demobilized back to Saskatchewan, having been awarded a Canadian Volunteer Services Medal and a quarter section of farm land in appreciation of his efforts. In the 1960s Ernie would return to military service as part of the reserves, where he worked as an army cook.

Of course those are just two of the many veterans from my extended family that served their country. Among my aunts, uncles, and cousins are veterans of the army, navy, air force, medical corps, and peacekeepers. They have served in both world wars, and many other lesser known missions throughout the world. Among my great uncles are men who stormed the beaches on D-Day, Juneau Beach, and marched in to Germany in 1945, and one who died from a gas attack in World War I. Among my great great aunts and uncles are men and women from three countries who fought and died in WWI or were left widowed by the war and forced to support themselves and their children. In the past year I have learned of distant ancestors who fought in the War of the Roses, the Battle of Culloden, and numerous other historical wars.

So today, let us all take a moment out of our busy lives to remember all the fine young men and women who fought and died, and sacrificed their time, health, and lives to protect those they left behind. We must always remember what they gave. Lest we forget...