Op-ed: We Remember Them
- John Lagimodiere | November 09, 2018
I always have big respect for soldiers and those that serve. I shake their hand at the mall, mist up a bit when you see a ramp ceremony on TV and sometimes ugly cry watching those videos where a soldier shows up at their child’s school and surprises them! Puddle making. I tend to get emotional. This emotion recently led to me getting jammed up in Ottawa, at the Parliament Building and inside the House of Commons no less.
In October I had the pleasure to tour Parliament before it closes for an estimated ten year renovation. Our tour ended just in time to witness Question Period. What an opportunity. Turns out there are lots of rules for people watching Question Period. No jackets, purses or cell phones for sure and you are supposed to just sit there. “No outbursts” was how they put it.
Question Period is weird, frustrating, childish and very interesting. The opening part was various Members of Parliament reading good news reports about people or events from their ridings back home. There was scattered applause from their own sides of the House, but mostly they ignored each other or make fun of each other or both at the same time.
Well, the day we attended was also the first day back of the House of Commons after the 4th anniversary of the shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, whose life was taken while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The shooter was eventually killed by the Head of Security inside the Parliament building. It was an event that shook our country.
Eventually, with the formal beginning of Question period, there was some civility. A member from the governing side brought forth the service and sacrifice of Cpl Cirillo. It was a touching tribute and both sides of our House of Commons stood in unison for an ovation. It was moving. I applauded with them for Cpl. Cirillo. I had visited the site of his passing mere weeks after it happened on another trip and had left him some tobacco.
Then the opposition side got up and gave great homage to the men and women that have served or still serve our country at home, on Parliament Hill and in difficult situations around the world. Both sides again erupt in applause. I join them. Clapping like crazy cause I’m for those folks that serve us. I was also clapping for my grandfather John Archibald Ormiston. My mom’s dad. Good Scottish British folk from Winnipeg. We never got to find out about what he did in WWI because he never talked about it, but he and three of his brothers went. James, Peter and John came home. His brother Robert never returned and is buried there. Man was I clapping.
So, always interested in history, but frustrated by lack of stories on my grandfather, I had recently found a link to be able to search the personnel records of Canadian soldiers in the First World War. I went to the link and followed the rules and boom, there was my grandfather’s enlistment form.
It showed he enlisted when he was nineteen years old and seven months. He was described as ruddy complexion, blue eyes, fair hair and that he was Presbyterian. It said he was Presbyterian on many of the documents he had. I also saw his dental records. Good teeth that man. Found out he had typhoid as a child. Also during the war he saw a doctor and the official diagnosis was “indigestion”. That was on May 18, 1916.
My grandfather only told my mom he was in the infantry and drove ambulance and big wigs around in Europe. He hated war. I found out he was in the 61st Battalion. Regimental number 460365 of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. As far as I can tell, he made $15 a month. He was discharged on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 1919. Clapping for grandpa and all that served. $15 a month to go through hell. Darn right I was clapping.
Then I get the tap on the shoulder. Very serious security person. He gives me the no clapping sign. He was really good about it because he knew I was clapping for him and his mates. But still, I was the only guy clapping in the whole gallery of the House of Commons. Pity my wife sitting beside me. I felt bad, not bad, if you know what I mean. We remember.