This is the text of my address.
Wars generate numbers. Planes. Ships. Troop Strength.The trouble with numbers when it comes to the human cost, is what they don’t count. No-one comes home from War unchanged. Some don’t come home at all. Numbers don’t count the families, friends, villages, of those that served. Those numbers, factored in, increase exponentially, and are unrecorded. Numbers don’t have faces, or hearts or families that grieve.
There is no shortage of numbers. Here’s one:
156,000. The number of Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy on the 6th of June. Picture that. If you weren’t there, you probably can’t. The scale is too large.
19. That was the average age of those in the invasion.10,000 men didn’t make it off those beaches. That’s half the population of Huntsville, That won’t come into focus either. The sheer scale overwhelms and they become well, just numbers... 10,000 dead... what does that really mean? The scale is unimaginable.
We are so blessed to live in a peaceful country. For that we owe thanks to all who stood for us in past conflicts and who still stand for our Country. To those who fell.We must never lose sight of the realization that those numbers aren’t numbers, but people. War translates loss into numbers. As Time slides past, Lest We Forget, we need to translate those numbers back, to get the nameless numbers out of our heads and into our hearts, to give faces to the fallen.
Sometimes the way into the heart is through the eyes
On the Normandy beaches broken landing craft and sunken ships still mar the strand. In September, two British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss went down onto those sands and stencilled silhouettes of Fallen Soldiers on the sand. Over 500 volunteers from around world joined them. Some were children who have never known war. Some had lost sons and daughters in current conflicts – some wrote their loved one’s names in sand by a stencilled outline. Some were Men who are old now, proud in their uniforms, who survived the day when those beaches were taken
Between them, 9000 ‘bodies’ were stencilled on the sand. They gave the Fallen a shape, well beyond a number.
The Fallen, as the project was called, -- youcan find it on-line -- was a sobering reminder of what happens when Peace is not present. It created a visual representation of the unimaginable, the thousands of human lives lost during the hours of the tide during the Normandy landings. It moved the numbers off the page.
9000 images of fallen men... Looking down from the cliffs, watching the tide come in and wash the bodies away was symbolic of all the fleeting and precious lives lost in all the wars.As Time moves us away and so much crowds for our attention, the risk is that War becomes just numbers, just words, just two silent minutes. It is important to be jolted from that, because War is not about the unimaginable numbers. It is necessary to translate those numbers back into the real human cost, to consider how our freedom has been paid for and to remember all those who marched away to fight on our behalf, and to honour those who never marched home. To remember that those numbers had hearts, and dreams. For those who lost loved ones , in any War, the numbers aren’t faceless. The scale of the numbers doesn’t make them less human. For families of the fallen that got the call, the only number that mattered was ONE – their ONE.
We must take time to stop, and consider the great gift given to us in this beautiful country, to never take for granted the freedoms that we have today, those of us who never have been asked to storm the beaches. Peace requires eternal vigilance, and we must never forget what can happen when Peace is absent. Never again let the numbers become faceless and huge.
On this day, we gather to remember. To give our grateful thanks to those who stood for Canada in past Wars and who still stand now, out on the sharp end, in current conflicts . We remember the Fallen, and their families, and the great price paid . We must also remember the numbers, and translate them always into what they really mean.
We take a symbolic two minutes today to thank the Living, and to honour the dead. And that number is too small. We should take a moment every day to offer our gratitude and blessing, to each and every ONE of them.