On my honour,
we will stand at the place where you rest and remember you.
On my honour,
we will pick up the torch of freedom and carry it for you.
On my honour,
you will not be a silent memory,
we will speak of you often so the world will know what you have done.
On my honour,
as you reach the gates of heaven
you will hear the voices of a grateful nation rise up
and we will honour you.
And we will honour you.
Kathleen Mills, whose husband Colonel Darryl Mills, a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was stationed at Fort Stewart from 2004-2008, penned the words to “Honour” in an effort to ease the anguish she felt while watching the ceremonies.
“Attending those ceremonies was a life altering experience,” says Kathleen.
She started going to them while her husband was serving the first of two tours with the 3ID in Iraq. His first tour lasted 13 months, his second 16 months, and she stayed in Georgia to care for their two children. However, this was a familiar state of affairs; like most military wives, Kathleen has grown accustomed to her husband being away from home for long periods of time. Over the past 26 years in uniform he has served on many missions, including three tours in Afghanistan, the first immediately after 9/11. But she was not prepared for the number of casualties that the 3ID suffered overseas.
“It was heart breaking,” she says. “I kept asking myself ‘how can I keep going through this, especially when my husband is over there too’? My heart was just wide open for the families of the fallen. I realized though, that it was not about me, but how I could make a difference.”
So she wrote the poem “Honour” as a way to help both herself and others get through such a heart-aching experience. “The poem is about a soldier who went to work and did not come home,” she explains. “It was a way to ease the grief and honour their memory.”
She sent the poem to her friend, the wife of the commander of 3ID, who was serving in Iraq at the time. Kathleen’s friend sent the poem to her husband and, as it happened, one of his friends had just lost a son. “That poem meant a lot to my friend’s husband,” says Kathleen. “It provided him some comfort at the time.”
After that, Kathleen began reading “Honour” every month at the tree dedication ceremonies, standing before devastated people who had just lost loved ones. Although she was emotionally drained by the experience, she says the “inspirational” attitude of those at the ceremonies was incredibly uplifting. “Those families are so proud of their soldiers,” she explains. “None of them complained. They just do it over and over again. It’s a strange feeling – you feel so sad for them, and at the same time, you are praying that it never happens to you.”
Based on many of her experiences, Kathleen is a strong advocate for the military, both Canadian and American, and it is her hope that through her poetry she can reach people who may not understand the kind of sacrifices that make up the day-to-day lives of military families. When she was contacted by Wreaths Across Canada for permission to use her poem “Honour” within their organization, she was thrilled. “I was honoured that they wanted to use my poem,” she says. “I thought – someone is getting this! All of our fallen heroes need to be remembered.”
Kathleen and her family are now back in Canada, where Darryl is the commanding officer of Land Force Central Area Training Centre in Meaford, Ont. She is working part-time as fitness instructor and personal trainer. But she has not forgotten her friends in Georgia, and they have not forgotten her. Even as she works on a new book about her experiences with 3ID, interspersed with her evocative poems, they are still reading “Honour” at the monthly ceremonies on Warriors’ Walk.
Kathleen loves having contributed such a moving poem to a cause she so passionately believes in. “Soldiers make a difference and for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we owe it to them to thank them, remember them and honour them,” she says.FRENCH