17160 Stephen Kalyta: Tombstone Dialogue

“We need to embrace similarities and guard against our division by race, by flag or by politics”

Article by 17160 Stephen Kalyta

My son, now in 2nd year at RMC, represents the 4th generation of my family’s military service to Canada. Those that served in my family include my grandfather and a great uncle, both veterans of WWII. I never knew my grandfather, for his safe return to Canada, was short-lived. Unfortunately, he traded a heroic battle with the Germans for a lost battle with the bottle. My great uncle faired better, survived capture and imprisonment, returning months after the end of the war. His battle scars transformed him into a dark character, someone I feared more than respected. Despite his own war experience, I was told he was proud of my decision to first join his unit (Hastings & PER) and later forgave me for pursuing a career as an officer.

Nearing the anniversary of the 100 year Armistice, the Nation’s accountability for their sacrifice weighs upon me. I stand at the foot of their graves and wonder, does the world today befit their sacrifice? With nationalism on the rise, I cannot help but think they would be disappointed. As members of the Legion of the Fallen, would they now offer advice on how best to navigate the global threats to peace? The cold, still air seems fitting for these Veterans do not offer up their wisdom easily, even for family.
Not yet defeated by my somber mood nor by the overcast day, I picture my grandfather before me in his WWII uniform. His battledress eerily similar to my own at CMR in the eighties. I imagine him telling me that peace cannot be forced upon you, it must be embraced first from within. Before battles rage between nations, they begin in the twisted minds of individuals. Their fragmented logic becomes fertile ground to promote hate. To combat this existential threat (Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Afghanistan) from repeating at the expense of more lives, we need to embrace similarities and guard against our division by race, by flag or by politics.
Costa Rica does not have a standing army. Arguably Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Is Costa Rica blind to our geopolitical reality or just eternally hopeful? Can their example set a blueprint for a new worldview? It seems unlikely; just this week the Trump Administration announced it is officially exiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Weapons Treaty.
I pass through the cemetery gates with more questions than answers. I humbly conclude in the shadow of my forefathers that we must remain on guard against tyranny. We have not abandoned hope, we simply have yet to find a better answer. On this Armistice anniversary, may we recall we owe it to the Fallen and current serving members to demand more from ourselves as a society.