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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembrance Day 2011


"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

James Rajotte MP
Placing the wreath for the Government of Canada

Remembrance Day is always special, it brings back memories of great sacrifice, heroism, joy, and heart wrenching pain.  Those who have served know that there are no unwounded Veterans, that each one pays a price in some way.  For this reason, we pay our respect to all who have served on Remembrance Day. 

It's important to remember the epic battles of faraway places, and it is important to remember those who walk with us today.  I have witnessed, in my life, a dramatic change in how society views our Veterans.  When I served and for many years thereafter, it was not popular to be a Veteran.  For the most part, Veterans quietly folded up their uniforms and put them in a box.  I gave my field jackets and uniforms (after taking the unit markings off them) to the goodwill so that someone less fortunate, perhaps even a homeless Veteran, might acquire them.  They were well made, designed to withstand the jungle and the wear and tear of military use.... I figured they'd keep somebody warm and last a long time.

Over the years I've seen the crowds swell at Veteran's Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies, and this fills me with great joy.  I am pleased to see this honor and respect paid to our Veterans.  To see young soldiers home from Afghanistan coming out to join the remaining WWII Veterans on Remembrance Day is heartwarming.  Their steps still seem a bit cautious and some remain at the back of the room.  Some probably wonder if the WWII Veterans might think their contribution doesn't merit standing alongside the WWII Veterans.  But every year, as more come to the front, the WWII Veterans are there to greet them with open arms.  For their contributions are equally appreciated and perhaps for the WWII Veterans, they now look into the eyes of our younger Veterans with a profound sense of pride, knowing they pass their torch into capable hands. 

Canadian Forces at the Cenotaph in Devon

We pay our respects to our first responders and our fire department.  I recall a time when the Coast Guard or the Merchant Marines would have been omitted from the ceremonies, as if to suggest that somehow their service did not rise up to the level of nobility of those who served in the regular forces.  Now we include all of them, we embrace our Merchant Marines and Coast Guard, the Fire Department, the EMT's and Paramedics.  For we recognize that all of these people are noble in their service to others. 

Our ability to survive as a nation and recognition of our vulnerabilities inspire us to offer honors and appreciation to those who would protect us.  The fire department that rises up on a cold February night, or the police officer who patrols the dark street surrounded by shadows of uncertainty... these people are the definition of courage.  They provide the needed stage upon which peaceful society may prosper, a place where families may raise children without the fear of unprecedented evil.

A young Army private sat down at the table, we had two Army corporals with us.  He said the great highlight of his day was a little boy who came up to him and asked him if he could give him a hug.  The young private said it was the neatest thing that he'd ever experienced at an event like this.  I smiled and asked the soldier if the boy was about this tall, as I held my hand about 3 feet off the floor.  He and I shared the same experience.  The little boy said thank you for protecting us.  It was the highlight of my day too.

We send a message to all those who are serving and to those who will serve in the future with our actions.  Sometimes a quote from history applies;

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."