Last week I was invited to talk with two of the older grades of students at Muheim Memorial Elementary School in Smithers, about what they were doing for their Remembrance Day ceremonies.
I love the honesty of children and their ideas and opinions about our veterans and Remembrance Day ceremonies were sincere and insightful.
We talked about one of their special projects, poster boards that contain photos and the family stories of the local Wetsuwet’en Veterans.
They were open about how long it had taken for Indigenous veterans to be recognized for their sacrifices.
They told me how difficult it was for our Indigenous veterans, even when they came home, as many had to give up their status to go serve in the war, and when they came home their own communities shunned them, and they found discrimination everywhere still prevalent, even though they had fought for Canada, willing to give their own lives.
One young man said, “can you imagine how hard that would have been?”
I told him I could not. But I was struck by the sadness in his voice.
Other students shared stories with me about their relatives who had served, and when I asked how they felt about them, their replies were immediate, they are proud.
So often as adults we don’t think kids understand the complexities of life, such as war.
I think they do.
I think they might understand war on a more simplistic level, but they get it.
War is bad under any circumstances, and serving would be scary, they told me. I agree.
The students in both classes I went to told me how they have new students who have joined the school from war-torn countries.
They asked me if I could turn off the noon time siren in Smithers so it would not scare their new friends thinking they were sirens signalling bombs were coming.
I thought it was a remarkably insightful request, as they had clearly given thought to how it must affect new immigrant families to hear that siren.
I assured the kids I did not have the power to turn the noon tone off, but I could write about it so others could think about it, and maybe they could write a letter to the mayor with their request. I hope they do.
Kids need to feel involved in their communities just as much as the rest of us do.
When I returned to the school two days later to watch their Remembrance Day ceremonies, I was touched deeply by the children, as even the youngest of classes had a part to do. They laid poppy wreaths, some sang songs, others recited “In Flanders Fields,” and the older ones I had talked to planned, organized and led the ceremony.
Each one had a speaking part and they spoke their part with solemn respect.
It wasn’t just a ceremony, I knew the kids understood how much we owe to those that served our country, to those who lost their lives, to those that came back but were not respected, and to those who still serve.
They may be young, but I am proud and hopeful for the future with these guys in charge, maybe they can see not only with their eyes, but with their hearts, a world with no wars.