Sunday, November 8, 2015

“Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own”

Jim Summersides displaying his Congressional Gold
Medal while in Wageningen on 5 May 2015
As we commemorate Remembrance Day this year, I was reminded of part of my family’s trip to Europe last spring.

On May 5 we made our way to Wageningen, in Southern Holland. That’s where 70 years before German General Blaskowitz surrendered to Canadian General Foulkes, officially ending the war in the Netherlands.

Being the 70th Anniversary, Wageningen hosted a huge parade and festival including hundreds of Allied veteran soldiers (including 70 World War II vets from Canada), marching bands from varies Allied nations (including the Burlington Teen Tour Band), and current troops and cadets. It was amazing to be among the thousands and thousands who lined the parade route – at least five or six people deep – and cheer each of the veterans as they passed by in vintage vehicles.

We knew that among those Canadian veterans was Jim Summersides, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613 in Fonthill and a frequent Remembrance Day participant in Pelham.

It wasn’t easy finding him from among the hundreds of vets sheltered under several structural tents at the parade-start. You see, Summersides wasn’t with the other Canadian veterans because he was among eight veterans speaking with Canada’s Prime Minister. He was telling the PM about the Congressional Gold Medal (that he kept in his pocket!), awarded in February 2015 for his service and determination during WWII in the first Joint Canadian-American Special Forces unit.

After meeting Summersides, I noticed two huge banners surrounding one of the three Wageningen music stages. Loosely translated, one banner read “Freedom Is Something We Celebrate Together!” The other: “Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own.”

These are appropriate words this week.

During our Remembrance Day commemorations we celebrate together our many freedoms – the freedom to express ourselves, to participate in cultural, religious, and political activities, to come and go as we please, and to pursue a safe and happy life.

And, we also recognize the words on the second banner: that our freedoms did not happen on their own. Rather, our freedoms are due to the sacrifices of Veterans and of those members of the Canadian Armed Forces who serve today. They sacrificed their futures and continue to make those sacrifices so that our future might be free and might be one of peace and happiness.

As we celebrate our freedoms together and commemorate Remembrance Day 2015, let us be thankful. Let us never forget. And let us remember the “Freedom Does Not Happen On Its Own.”