I have a big mouth....
Which is to say I'm talkative...and opinionated...and I come by it honestly.
And I have the great good fortune to live in a country where I have that luxury.
It is never lost on me that it is a luxury earned because of the choices my ancestors made and defended.
On the side of my Grandmother Hastings (Ruf), a brave man who opposed the trends of the world he knew in Germany left for another land. He wasn't always apappreciated - nor welcome (Catholic and German in a turn-of-the-century community where orange lilies marked Mason neighbours was two strikes), but he made a good life in a new place. Not easy...
My Grandpa Hastings lost a brother - Joe - in the second world war. I knew my Grandpa (and adored him) and I met two of his siblings. Somehow I know about his Joe.
My Grandma Hastings' Joe was a figure in my childhood. Uncle Joe was a nice man...and I remember going to his house in the north end of Hamilton...but more, I remember the calls my parents got when Uncle Joe wasn't well.
Uncle Joe was a World War II vet. What he saw and lived there haunted him. His brother John, his brother-in-law Maurice (my Grandpa Hastings), and my Dad often went to him when the stress of those terrible memories got him. He came back from that war and worked for the railway in Hamilton...but the war was never far away...and it was with him when he finally walked into the bay to escape it.
It couldn't have been an easy story to carry....
On my father's side, there are a selection of brave souls who served for the Irish army and the British army. Their efforts are equally valiant.
And that's why - although I am a left-leaning, tree-hugging, peac-nick, I love soldiers.
I hate conflicts, but I love the courageous souls who are willing to defend my right to shoot off my mouth...and I respect their valour (Canadian spelling intended) and their commitment.
It is not lost on me that my right to an education...my right to vote...and my right to have rights have been earned by those willing to defend those rights. And it is also not lost on me that I have an obligation to laud and defend their efforts - on Remembrance Day - and every day.
I am privileged to count among my friends a selection of kind, brave souls who have served for the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.
My lovely friend Nick Brownhill serves now as a member of the Canadian Navy (yes, we have one...and it's damn fine...)...and I was one of his references going in. He's a credit to them...to his parents...and to our country...and his commitment inspires me...
So if you have the great luxury of expressing any opinion today, hug a veteran.
Not everyone is blessed with that opportunity...and everyone who is owes a great debt to complete strangers...dear friends...and much missed loved ones who made that possible.