"Jumper Down" is the ominous phrase heading many emails concerning those who were wartime paratroopers. In its simplicity, it means a jumper has died - and it is becoming almost a weekly occurrence.
As so it is with the current wartime population that hobbles towards its demise in fewer numbers every Nov. 11.
A few years ago, most Royal Canadian Legion members sported medals awarded for service in the Second World War or Korea. Now they are a rarity, with more recent service medals more prominent.
It is understandable; the Second World War started 73 years ago.
Those of us fortunate enough to be alive remember those days with clarity.
Take Noel Butcher of Langley, for instance. He fought the bitterest of battles from the tip of Sicily, through the mud and cold of Italy, to his being shifted to Belgium and Holland as the Germans reeled in final defeat.
Amongst his peers, Noel will recount some of his experiences. The sounds of battle, the sight of the dead buddies stinking in the mud as their innards oozed from their corpses. The screams of shells, Moaning Minnies, and chattering machine gun fire.
He will also recount the shortage of men, with companies the size of platoons, as Canada refused to send more than 100,000 draftees overseas because of the political situation at home.
Memories fade but were brought alive by such men as the late Tom Soames of Langley, who vividly remembered the bitter cold of the North Atlantic as his tiny corvette ploughed the mountainous waves in defence of the plodding convoys taking supplies to Great Britain. Living conditions were dreadful, rations were worse, and death always lurked beneath the icy seas.
There were the heroes of the air who defended British skies against overwhelming odds - and won.
Amongst this band of heroes is Langley's Bill Marr who flew Mosquito fighter-bombers, his comrades in Bomber Command nightly taking the trip of probable death over Germany for the destruction of military targets and, unfortunately, countless hapless civilians upon the ground, then called "lateral damage."
As the bugle sounds The Last Post, many of these veterans of yesteryears could remember their fathers' and mothers' war, World War One, where casualties were even higher during the fighting, although not on the home front.
That was a war of such brutality and horror as to be almost unimaginable: mass assaults and death in the thousands to gain a few metres of ground.
Poisonous gas blinded, burning the skin from bodies and turning healthy lungs to mush, as soldiers tried to survive in muddy trenches with the smell and sight of corpses to share the bully beef rations.
I still recall seeing blinded men submerged in oil in the Colonel Belcher Military Hospital in Calgary as late as the Korean conflict.
That conflict was no piece of cake, either. It was tough as hell, and fought under brutal conditions.
A daughter of Don Urquhart, Sniper Sergeant of the Princess Patricia's, Patty, who was a bylaw officer for the City of Langley until her retirement, can relate some of the events.
The civilian populations of the warring nations suffered as well.
Canadians and their American neighbours had only minor inconveniences to mar their lives, or the worry over a loved one "somewhere in Europe," as the letterhead put it.
The British and German civilian populations paid the dreadful price of total war, as did Russia, Japan, and most of Europe. The frightening sounds of air raid sirens in the blackouts. The drone of bombers in the sky to be followed by the whistling sounds of bombs before their shattering explosions. Then furious fires, demolished buildings, flattened homes, impassable streets, and death in horrifying numbers.
It is almost impossible for those living today to recall the utter horror of war.
In Langley, we worry about matters of little worldly import, such as busy roads, where the next neighbourhood will be located, and a possible increase in taxes.
If you do get out to see the few remaining old vets trudge toward the cenotaph on Nov. 11, remember that they come from a generation that suffered war, economic depression, and situations that are almost unimaginable to us living today.
Realize that most of us alive today amidst luxury and plenty owe it to these fast-fading generations of men and women who fought so we might prosper as free people in a free society.
Hopefully, their genes will be passed down, and if we find ourselves once again plunged into war, we will reflect the guts and gumption of those who have preceded us.
"In the morning and at the going down of the sun, we will remember them. we will remember them."
Mike Harvey, Langley
@ Copyright 2013