Yael Witvoet, who has been participating in the Royal Canadian Legion Ponoka Branch No. 66’s annual poster and literary contest since she was in Grade 7, took away several wards for her entries this year, with prize money amounting to $575.
Witvoet won first place in the senior essay, branch level ($50), first for senior poem, branch level ($50), first in senior essay at the district level ($125), and second in senior poem at the district level ($100), and second place in senior essay at the Alberta Command level ($250).
By Yael Witvoet
She lovingly kissed him at the train station
He held her hand until the moment he boarded
With a strong embrace they held each other for the last time
“Please return home safe!”
A young boy eagerly watches his driveway
Every night he writes a letter to his father
Days pass without a single message
“When will dad be here?”
Men on the battlefield wait with bravery and fear
They hide in gruesome trenches
An ear-shattering bomb is detonated
“Prepare your weapons!”
The captain cried
The sounds of artillery fire and screams surround him
A single bullet flies at a deadly speed
A piercing pain hits his chest, and he falls
“May God have mercy!”
A notifier walks up a driveway
He knocks with a heavy heart
As a woman and child open the door, he removes his hat
“My deepest apologies”
Speeches that move the masses are spoken
A trumpet plays and the parade marches
A moment of silence is deafening over the crowd
“Lest we forget”
By Yael Witvoet
Years go by, one by one, the timeline between the wars of the past and us grows gradually farther apart. However, each year the understanding and mourning for our fallen soldiers grows stronger within the hearts of Canadians and continues too timelessly. The candles, the flowers, and the poppies are placed onto the graves
of both known and unknown soldiers in remembrance and respect for all that they have sacrificed. The hearts of those directly related to the fallen growing heavy with sorrow, and those without direct contact still experiencing a sense of loss and sadness when in thought and prayer. Remembrance Day will forever bring both gratitude and grief, and will always remind us of our history.
As people, we complain about small discomforts and insignificant situations, however, the soldiers that once stood on that same dirt suffered greater injuries and unimaginable difficulties years ago. The town in which I reside beholds a museum filled with information and relics from past wars. Standing within the building and peering at equipment and weapons used by Canadian soldiers gives a new perspective to the once possibly oblivious person. Within the building a World War One display holds items such as a gas mask, past uniforms, weapons, and the personal belongings of fallen soldiers. These items have the power to snap a person into the reality of being in war, seeing the equipment used quickly makes one realize the true imperativeness and bravery these soldiers had. The museum depicts both battlefield and home life during past wars with thorough thought and respect. I have visited this history-filled building many times, and as I walk through the timeline of a soldier’s life slowly and with a beating heart, I imagine the last few steps taken by each one. How it felt to walk, run, crawl, and eventually fall into the mud that blanketed the field. Each and every Canadian soldier withholds their own story regarding their lives in war, and as citizens of this country, it is with respect
and love that we should listen, read, and reflect on those legacies.
Every year my school holds a ceremony for Remembrance Day in honour of Canadians who have fought or are currently serving in the army. This year the students read out letters written by soldiers who unfortunately lost their lives in battle. One letter I vividly remember is from a young man writing to his family delineating what the battlefield on which he fights looks like. He describes deep trenches filled with mud; where they stay for days most often in their feces due to the circumstances they are in. He also describes the many men and women who have fallen around him. The picture the man describes is gruesome, and shows the true suffering many men and women in Canada endure in order to fight for us. During the ceremony, hundreds of pictures of soldiers were arranged onto a screen, as the photos continued a friend of mine cried at the sight. She pointed out a single photo of a man in uniform; her cousin. The effect this had on her was significant, and it left a mark on every person in my class. The effects of war are prevalent within many Canadians. Whether we know someone personally, they are a past relative, or are connected through a mutual friend, we all have a link to a soldier who has fought or currently fights for us. We are unified through our mutual love and respect for them, and this unification only grows stronger as the years go by.
Every soldier deserves peace once the war is over; unfortunately this is not our reality. Brave men and women now must face a new battle, one that often goes unnoticed. The arduous fight with a mental health condition known as PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. I have been educated on this topic within my psychology class; it is characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts of the events that you have witnessed. This condition is prevalent in many soldiers and is a battle that is difficult to win. Feelings of desolation and fear remains inside the hearts of soldiers, and my only hope is that those who suffer from the illness may one day get the peace they truly deserve.
Soldiers who return home from war carry mental and physical battle wounds with them every day. A constant reminder of the war they fought. It is only just that we recognize their wounds and thank them for their sacrifice. No battle is easy to return from; and the fact that some of our beloved soldiers returned at all is a miracle. May we wish for all soldiers to return, and heal, from the battles that they fought so strongly and courageously.