*Originally published November 11, 2015
This day each year marks a day of remembrance for all citizens of this earth. This day always strikes me deeply as I feel a reverberating gratitude toward the amazing men and women of Canada for their efforts in freeing my family members in the war.
I was born and raised in Canada, with freedom, abundance and sustenance available to me from birth. However, while I don't know many stories of how my family survived through the war, I do recall my mom telling me a few stories of my Opa and Oma and their trials.
Both my grandparents were in their teens during the war. My Opa's parents, in an effort to prevent him from being rounded up by the Germans to fight or work, would hide him under the garden. A small tube fed up through the shrubbery between their yard and the neighbours was all that allowed fresh air below. My mom said that at one such time, while hiding underground, the boot of a German soldier was so close, my Opa could have reached out and touched him. My Oma, the younger of many siblings, was frequently tasked with walking a fair distance to bring food and supplies to her older sister. Until on her way home one day, she was stopped by German soldiers and upon returning home, was no longer allowed to travel such a great distance.
Throughout my life I have been extremely privileged to travel back to the Netherlands many times. When I was younger I remember always hearing how grateful the Dutch were to Canadians. I remember hearing stories of how kind and generous the Canadians were to the Dutch. And I saw an immediate respect in their eyes when I told them I was from Canada.
Last year, I had the opportunity with my loving man to travel back again. During our trip, we stopped to spend some time at a wartime cemetery. Until that moment, it never truly hit me how great the cost, how great the sacrifice and truly how many men and women gave their lives to free a country that is home in my heart.
Today I walked among the crosses on Memorial Drive. As I looked from one to the other, noting the names, and especially the ages, of the men represented, I began to piece together parts of a story. Crosses that appeared to show brothers, dying within a few months of one another, crosses that may have been a father and son, one likely following the other into battle, and crosses of men as young as 17. Seventeen years old and giving up their life for God and Country.
I am Dutch. But I am also Canadian. I could not be more proud or more humbled at the amazing gift Canadians have given me. If not for your forefathers, perhaps I would not be here.
So today I would like to say thank you, from the very depth of my soul, for freeing my homeland, for your grace and for your generosity that still carries through today. 70 years ago this year, Nederland was freed. And for that, I am ever grateful.