Alex Knee’s life, from the age of about 21 to the age of 28, easily rivals the plot of any blockbuster Hollywood movie you have ever watched or ever will watch.
Mr. Knee fought Nazis. He crossed paths, however briefly, with the Queen and Winston Churchill. He survived the blitz. He escaped a sinking ship and spent a cold night clinging to a wooden door in the Atlantic.
And after all that he helped ferry men to the beaches of Normandy in one of the most pivotal moments in world history. Most soldiers landed at Normandy once, but Mr. Knee did it over and over for five days.
When it was all said and done he came back to Rose Blanche and started his family. He didn’t talk too much about the war, according to his daughter.
The few stories he shared with us were those he had given up to his family over the years - the more positive and maybe even glamorous. But behind the short story you’ll find on the front page there is likely an entire book that will never be written.
There is a great essay by Lee Sandlin called “Losing the War” (http://leesandlin.com/articles/LosingTheWar.htm). In it, he discusses how those of us who didn’t experience the Second World War will never truly understand it the way Mr. Knee does.
The allies may have won the war, but in his essay, Mr. Sandlin argues that later generations are losing the reality of war to time. He relates a story told to him by a friend who asked his father what it was like to be there on D-Day:
“His father opened his mouth to answer - and then his jaw worked, his face reddened, and, without saying a word, he got up and walked out of the room. That’s the truth about the war: the sense that what happened over there simply can’t be told in the language of peace.”
It’s because of the men and women like Mr. Knee we will likely never know the true horrors of war. We may never understand it, but it is also important that we never lose it either.
How can we possibly remember something we haven’t experienced and arguably can’t comprehend?
The only way we can keep from losing the war is through public displays of remembrance, such as wearing the poppy and attending cenotaph ceremonies. If we can never understand the reality of war, the next best thing we can do is recognize that war is something we can’t comprehend and be grateful that people like Mr. Knee fought those battles for us.
When the last living memories are gone, all we will be left with are the snippets shared with those willing to listen and the physical objects our veterans left behind - the medals, paperwork, and photos.
In his essay, Mr. Sandlin speaks about the importance of keeping the physical objects - the relics - of wars past.
“The canteen a hero carried, the ring whose magic failed in the last battle, the prayer book a soldier wept over as he waited for the shelling to end are reminders of the darkness that once enshrouded the earth, evidence of the gratitude still owed to those who brought back light.”
We don’t all have those relics. So do what you can to ensure the war is not lost to memory. Wear a poppy and show your gratitude.
@Tagline:<t4>- Brodie Thomaseditor@gulfnews.ca