Observing Remembrance Day: An interview with Sarah Rodgers

'Wait for me, daddy' by Claud Detloff. New Westminster, 1940.
‘Wait for me, daddy’ by Claud Detloff. New Westminster, 1940.

As Remembrance Day nears, here at the Firehall, we have been giving a great deal of thought to not just remembering the sacrifice of Canadian peacekeepers and soldiers, but also on some level understanding the impact of war on those who return and their families. With over 80,000 veterans in Canada, People Like Us, the new Firehall production, tells the story of just one veteran, but the issues it raises about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, illness and getting benefits are battles many returning veterans face.

Director Sarah Rodgers has been working hard to bring to life this moving story of a Canadian family dealing with the human cost of the first Gulf War.  She is no stranger to the impact of war – she grew up with a father who was a World War II veteran and as an artist has directed the highly successful production of Billy Bishop Goes To War.

Her father Denis Rogers, who is now 90 years old, served in World War II as an engineer for the British Army working on the Lancaster Airplanes based in Rome. He, like many others, saw the planes fly off and not return, losing many friends and fighter pilots. “Like many vets from the World Wars he did not speak of his time there,” says Rogers.

Sarah's father Denis Rodgers
Sarah’s father Denis Rodgers

She was attracted to working on People Like Us because of the issues around veterans in Canada today that it raises. “I found it an utterly compelling story and a dreadful secret that needed to be exposed. I hope that people realise veterans need our support not just from the First and Second World Wars but from more modern wars,” remarks Rodgers.

Rogers likes to observe Remembrance Day by reading the Rudyard Kipling play ‘My Boy Jack‘ out loud to casts if in rehearsal or to her family.  “It is a stunning poem by Rudyard Kipling who had to work very hard to get his son into the First World War as he had poor eyesight and was refused three times.  Kipling basically sent him to his death.”

Here are Sarah’s suggestions for remembering the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers and veterans in the lead up to Remembrance Day:

1. Wear a poppy.

2. Read ‘My Boy Jack‘.

3. See People Like Us at the Firehall.

“This play [People Like Us] is a bracing reminder that war can be many different kinds of hell, even for people like us. LEST WE FORGET.” Jerry WassermanThe Province

People Like Us runs til November 16. You can read more or buy tickets here. We will have poppies available in the lobby.

For more information on some of the fantastic programs in Vancouver serving Veterans, check out the Veterans Transition Network, Wounded Warriors, Veterans Emergency Transition Services and the BCIT Legion Military Skills Conversion Program. We also highly recommend BC filmmaker Judy Jackson’s War In the Mind, a documentary about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.