I walk down the street on my way to class, a flood of people wearing red poppies on their lapels. There’s a chill in the air today—a November whisper, a warning of the winter to come. Trying times don’t always come with such warnings; sometimes people are thrust into situations where, unbeknownst to them, circumstances have conspired to become a reckoning challenge.

This was the case, I think, for the brave soldiers who fought for our freedom in the two World Wars. Certainly, some knew what they were getting into, but in the muddy trenches, in the cold night, when November whispered that December was right around the corner… I have to think that that many soldiers didn’t expect that the conditions would be what they were. Still, they fought, and today my country is better for it. When  look at the sea of poppies around me, I find myself reflecting on the sacrifices that were made by men and women long before I was born.

As I walk to class, the safety I feel, the freedom I enjoy, the country I am proud to live in—I remind myself that these things were hard won. It is tantalizingly easy to take these things for granted, to forget that blood was shed and lives were lost. I see the sea of poppies, and I remind myself to be thankful for the things that are all too easy to forget were fought for and earned.

I think about the deployments, the young lives lost in the brutality of war. The families back home. The friends on the battlefield. I think about what those soldiers were fighting for, the fierce belief in freedom that they must have had. I think about those things, and I am infinitely grateful for the bravery and sacrifices of the people who fought for my freedom. I think about these things and I remember because, really, how could you forget?

Two years ago, I sat down in my high school library on a rainy day and wrote a letter of sorts to the soldiers who served (and continue to serve) for my country. Intermixing lyrics from Adele’s Hello, I wrote about the fact that, “While I can’t remember the atrocities of war because I wasn’t there, I do know how it feels to live in a place where the sacrifices and courage of soldiers over a hundred years ago has led to my freedom.”

How do I remember? I write.

How do I remember? I give thanks.

How do I remember? I love—my family, my friends, my freedom, my country.

I remember because it seems irresponsible and impossible not to remember. A better question, perhaps, is why I remember. And here is why: because, after everything that the brave soldiers went through, how could we do anything but remember, appreciate and be thankful?

I think about this as I walk through the sea of poppies in the cool November air. I am able to live my life today because my freedom was hard earned. Lives were lost in order for me to live mine the way I am lucky to today. For this, I vow to never forget—today, on Remembrance Day, and every other day, too.

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