By George A. Brown, editor
Canada is the greatest county in the world today because of the men and women who served in our armed forces during the Second World War.
With every passing Remembrance Day, the march to the cenotaph takes just a little bit longer; the veterans stoop a little bit more, their ranks a little bit thinner. Sixty-five years after the end of the Second World War, the national memory of their sacrifices seems a little more distant.
During this Veterans’ Week, we will honour the heroism and sacrifices of a generation of men and women who, fighting for Canada, served the cause of global freedom.
Many of us today have no direct tie to the more than one million Canadians who served in the three major international conflicts we specifically observe at the cenotaph: the First World war, Second World War and the so-called Korean Conflict. Of course we should also take time to reflect and be thankful for the sacrifices Canadian soldiers continue to make around the world in the name of freedom.
Everyone is invited to the Legion’s service Nov. 11. Students will also mark Veterans’ Week with services of their own. Most will have no direct tie to today’s veterans but they need to know that many Canadian soldiers were young men of high school and university age who left their families and communities to serve overseas. They did it out of a sense of national pride, dedication to a noble cause, and to be honest, their need for a steady paycheque after the hardships of the Great depression.
Remembrance Day doesn’t glorify or romanticize war like the screening of an old John Wayne movie. Talk to veterans this week and while they will freely admit to enjoying certain aspects of being a soldier overseas, such as developing a strong, lifetime camaraderie with other strapping young lads from across Canada and around the world, they will tell you that war is hell. Many won’t talk about the horrors they saw or inflicted; and that doesn’t help us to understand why war is sometimes necessary as a last resort. We need to understand and share their distaste for war.
You could certainly argue that we have learned little from the lessons of war. The War to End All Wars didn’t; the Second World War brought new dictators, new horrors and the atomic bomb; the Korean War solved little and Kim Jong-Il of North Korea has the bomb; the Americans and other nations lost credibility, morale and support at home in the Vietnam quagmire; and today Canada is at war in Afghanistan.
Avoid the temptation to use the holiday to make an early start on Christmas shopping, sleeping in or playing video games with the kids. Turn off your cellphone and log off Facebook for a day. At the very least, stop what you’re doing at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 and observe two minutes of silence to pay your respects to those who have fought to protect our freedom over the last 90 years.
Our national memory of war’s atrocities and its purposes would likely be lost without observing the ritual of Remembrance Day; it must be marked with our words and our actions. It’s not enough to drop a loonie in a bucket and pin a poppy on your lapel — although that’s a start. Our veterans need to know that we are grateful for their service and their sacrifice.
Go to the Remembrance Day service and shake a veteran’s hand, thank him for serving on your behalf.
Lest we forget.