As Remembrance Day approaches us this year, many of us will pay our respects to those who served, are serving, and for those that made the ultimate sacrifice. These tributes will be held publicly and privately, locally, regionally and nationally.
Remembrance Day is a very important, poignant, and memorable time for myself. November 11th is a day when I reflect on my family’s service to King and/or Queen and country. My Blackburn-Biermann family has served with distinction, class and honour for many generations.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War.
My great grandfather was born in 1864 (est) and served when Canada wasn’t even a country yet, during a time when countries were fighting over the slave trade and other matters that seem so far out of comprehension today.
My opa, or grandfather, Paul, was 13 years old already when the First World War ended and he was 35 years old when he served in the Second World War. I knew my opa very well and got to spend many wonderful years with him during my younger days.
My dad, Blacky, joined the military in 1958 with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and served in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He was made that ultimate sacrifice, passing away due to his military service, and was posthumously awarded the Memorial Cross in 2017.
I personally served with the Royal Canadian Artillery and was honourably discharged after my service was completed in the 90’s.
I was born only a generation after the Second World War and can remember the stories told how war affected those who served and the absolute horrors that people could and would do to each other for a belief or an idea. It was only later, through a slip of the tongue by my mom, that I found out that my dad had been forced to make some unspeakable acts for the sake of protecting himself and his comrades. My mom told me how my dad had become a different person - now willing to stand up for anybody who were being abused, taken advantage of or hurt in any way.
Taking another’s life impacted my dad’s life for the remainder of it.
I always knew my dad as a extremely gentle individual who was deeply affected by the suffering of others. He was especially affected by the suffering of animals - we always had dogs growing up, and when they got sick or had to be put down I could see the toll it took on him - each life that left took a piece of him with it.
I remember a time when he had to put our old English sheepdog, Muggsy, down. My dad had woken me up very early in the morning at about 5 am. Because Muggsy always slept with me, my dad asked me to put him on a leash. I did, and then I went back to sleep. A couple hours later I woke up to find Muggsy gone. I walked upstairs to the bathroom and I went to go in and ask my Dad were Muggsy was and found him crying, shaving cream running down his face, and he told me that he had to put Muggsy down because he got cancer in his hips and was suffering terribly.
This was one of the first displays of emotion that I had seen that had been a direct result of my Dad’s military service. I understood that seeing and being in conflict had made my dad a very gentle person that would do no more harm to any living being, yet would not put up with anything from anybody who was being abusive to another.
I have grown up to become my father’s son, there is no doubt.
I am the last Poppy in my family. My children have made no mention of joining the military. I will be proud, as a father, no matter what decisions and careers they choose. Generations of my family have served proudly so that future generations will live without fear, will stand for those being oppressed, will fight, and if needed, make the ultimate sacrifice so that they can live with pride, honour, confidence and dignity as I have for 17500 days.
To all who have served, are serving, and have given their lives, I pay my respects.
LEST WE FORGET
Bombardier Michael Blackburn MCR
Royal Canadian Artillery
Memorial Cross Recipient 120545