Wandering – Remembering…

Randy Payne was 33 when he died. I went to school with Randy, but had not thought of him for years until reading the newspaper one day 14 years ago.

Randy grew up in a Canadian military family. He was born in West Germany, and moved around depending on his father’s military posting. Eventually the family moved off-base and lived on the next concession road over from where I grew up.

Randy was three years older than me. We knew each other from school but we weren’t in the same social circles.

He was a good hockey player and eventually was captain of our hometown Jr. B hockey team. He was a nice guy.

Randy graduated high school in 1992, went to college, married, and started a family. Eventually after working in the private sector, he joined the Canadian Forces’ military police in 2003.

Randy joined the military police’s Close Protection Team in 2005. That is an elite group of officers who provide security to top military officials when in unsafe environments, like Afghanistan.

Randy was deployed to Kandahar in January 2006. On April 22, 2006 he died.

He was one of four soldiers who were killed when the military vehicle they were travelling in struck a roadside IED. Randy survived the initial blast but died from his injuries after emergency surgery.

Randy Payne is one of 158 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan during our 13 year involvement in that war.

I read about all of this, what he had done after high school, his life, after the fact. Until learning of his death, what was happening more than half-a-world away was just news. It is easy to be disconnected from the bigger picture of life.

It feels like we are losing our connection to Remembrance Day. It was easier to remember those who were lost in service to our country, when those who did return were here to remind us. Wear a poppy. Go to a service. Stay silent for two minutes. Show up.

When I went to my first Remembrance Day ceremony, there were veterans from World War One in attendance. I was five at the time. Now few veterans remain from World War Two.

Randy’s story is one of 158 from Afghanistan, but there are more. Over 106,000 men and women have died serving their country, our country. That number does not include those who returned who were wounded, and those who carried the scars of service, and continue to do so.

This year, attending a Remembrance Day ceremony is discouraged because of the pandemic. Ceremonies will be low-key, small, but still commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

A virus shouldn’t stand in the way of remembrance; and no one has to attend a ceremony to remember.

Myself, I will remember Randy this year, and all the veterans I have had the privilege of meeting – most of whom are no longer here. I will be thinking of members of my family too: a cousin who just retired from the CAF, and my nephew who serves in the Royal Canadian Navy.

The work of remembrance is no longer with those who were there and returned. They did their work. The work of remembrance is our responsibility.

Remembering is not easy, it’s work, and it’s important.

Lest we forget.

Originally published in the November 11th edition of The Morrisburg Leader.

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