On this day, in 1918, marked the end of The Great War. The War To End All Wars. Later, to be known simply as "World War 1". My grandfather served in that war, and luckily survived both the war and the flu pandemic that it quickly spread with returning soldiers. I had family serve in WWII as well, and thankfully all returned home safely. Millions of others (on both sides) were not so lucky.
As much as I abhor war, sometimes it is absolutely necessary to prevent (or stop) oppression or genocide.
I was never tested by being called to serve. Sometimes I wonder how I would have reacted if I were called into action. The closest I came was watching "Band of Brothers", or playing Medal of Honor. Now, I'm likely too old to be called if a global intervention is required. I pray that my son will not have to face that as he gets older.
I found this photo of some Canadian soldiers marching with a tank at Vimy Ridge, which by all accounts was literally hell on earth. Over 3,500 Canadian soldiers lost their lives taking the Ridge, using a "creeping barrage" with a solid line of artillery fire being laid down immediately in front of their position as they advanced. The German Sixth Army suffered over 20,000 casualties. The craters left by this barrage are still visible today. The French had lost 150,000 lives trying to take the Ridge 2 years earlier. It was one of Germany's strongest footholds in France.
To those that served to protect freedom, all I can say is a meagre thanks, and hope that I don't lose the perspective that your sacrifices deserve.
Update: Tim Bray wrote a post on Remembrance, with a link to a Dutch website about the Great War - with lots of incredible colour photographs. It's somehow surreal seeing colour photographs from that era, but they are amazing.
Update: Just found a great page describing the background of the poem "On Flanders Fields", by John McCrae, including a handwritten copy of the poem by the author.