Valley Voices: In war one must stand the high ground

Simpcw First Nation held Remembrance Day Ceremonies at their cenotaph in Chu Chua on Nov. 11, 2020. Pictured is Simpcw Elder Rose Miller beside the cenotaph. (Nystoruk photo)
Simpcw First Nation held Remembrance Day Ceremonies at their cenotaph in Chu Chua on Nov. 11, 2020. It was a small gathering with Simpcw Acting Chief Jules Phillip officiating. Simpcw Elder William Pete presented the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in the Shuswap language during the ceremony. Recognition of Simpcw veterans was given with the laying of wreaths and crosses on the cenotaph, and then an open microphone was available after the service for those who wished to speak. District of Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer, Councilor Donna Kibble, and CAO Bob Payette were in attendance at the service. Pictured is Simpcw Elder Rose Miller beside the cenotaph. (Nystoruk photo)Simpcw First Nation held Remembrance Day Ceremonies at their cenotaph in Chu Chua on Nov. 11, 2020. Pictured is Simpcw Elder Rose Miller beside the cenotaph. (Nystoruk photo) Simpcw First Nation held Remembrance Day Ceremonies at their cenotaph in Chu Chua on Nov. 11, 2020. It was a small gathering with Simpcw Acting Chief Jules Phillip officiating. Simpcw Elder William Pete presented the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ in the Shuswap language during the ceremony. Recognition of Simpcw veterans was given with the laying of wreaths and crosses on the cenotaph, and then an open microphone was available after the service for those who wished to speak. District of Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer, Councilor Donna Kibble, and CAO Bob Payette were in attendance at the service. Pictured is Simpcw Elder Rose Miller beside the cenotaph. (Nystoruk photo)
Members of the colour party march through light rain to get into position for the start of the parade to Reg Small Park during Remembrance Day ceremonies in 2011. In the color party are (l-r) Cadet Sgt. Austin Greene, RCAF Master Corporal James Robertson and Korean War veteran Bob Freeston. (Keith McNeill photo)Members of the colour party march through light rain to get into position for the start of the parade to Reg Small Park during Remembrance Day ceremonies in 2011. In the color party are (l-r) Cadet Sgt. Austin Greene, RCAF Master Corporal James Robertson and Korean War veteran Bob Freeston. (Keith McNeill photo)
Two enthusiastic Beavers carry a flag in the 2013 Remembrance Day ceremony at Clearwater’s Reg Small Park. (Keith McNeill photo)Two enthusiastic Beavers carry a flag in the 2013 Remembrance Day ceremony at Clearwater’s Reg Small Park. (Keith McNeill photo)
Barriere Legion Branch #242 Remembrance Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2006. (Jill Hayward Photo)Barriere Legion Branch #242 Remembrance Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2006. (Jill Hayward Photo)

By Kevin Deckert

I stand on a steep hill, commanding a view of the farmlands far off into the distance. The slope before me is an excellent field of fire. Inwardly, I know that no enemy could approach without great cost in life. The sounds of soldiers checking their weapons, muted orders passed down the line. The early morning mist lifting from the earth, the panorama unfolding before me. In any other time it would be a spectacular tranquil scene but not this day.

I know that below hidden by the trees and shrubs, dug into the fertile soil, men wait. Another night has passed, filled with fear and punctuated with courage.

The voices of the men around me are a reassurance, a comfort. The day before was one of terror and tragedy. For such is the time of war. The generals set the plan, the soldiers put it into play. The game that is life in war. Subtle sounds mark the break of day. The air still, the birds ominously quiet. The air is so still one can hear men breathing, deep, rapid breaths. At all costs, we must hold the high ground. The enemy knows that at all costs they must take it from us. This is the futility of war.

I know when the shouts begin, the cannons will fire, raining iron on all those who offer their lives for this day that history will mark. My hand reaches to the heavy barrel of the cannon beside me oiled and well tended. The cannon was built solely for only one purpose, and on this day that purpose will be unleashed, relentlessly.

In the distance a sound, a sound as of yet unknown filling the crisp air. The sound of a car horn. A sound so foreign that I am shaken to my boots. Then more sounds fill my ears. The old cannon beside me with rusted wheels no longer seems so ominous, nor deadly. The cannon has not spoken to destruction in nearly 140 years.

Below me as the mist clears, I see lines of traffic and children on their way to school. The gun emplacements, overgrown and almost unrecognizable. I have returned to the tumultuous world of the 21st Century. I see towering skyscrapers in the distance. Appearing as targets to the empty cannons. It is my time to stand upon a battlefield, the first impression is indelible. A place of such horror, now a place of peace.

All over the world such places exist, some honoured and hallowed ground, many forgotten not to the ravages of war, rather to the ravages of time.

The battlefield of which I speak is one in which a country was divided. Men drew a line upon the earth and fought to the death to defend it.

We see or hear of war nearly every day. Some become nearly immune to it.

To stand upon a battlefield brings it all to reality.

This story was originally published in the Clearwater Times Nov. 15, 2010 issue.

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