On November 11 hundreds of thousands will gather at cenotaphs across the country. Military personnel, RCMP officers, and air cadets will march and form honour guards. Crowds of civilians and fewer and fewer veterans will attend. Politicians will lay wreaths and make speeches. The federal government will name an honorary mother to represent all mothers who’ve lost a child in the service.
It will be at once both a proud and bittersweet moment. Proud because of Canada’s role as warrior or peacekeeper as required by the world community. Bittersweet when we total both the financial and human cost.
We will be grateful that no battle is waged on Canadian soil. We will experience the oxymoron of detached involvement that is television coverage. We see the nightly war coverage but we don’t hear or smell or feel the mortar or landmines. We see soldiers? bodies coming home in flag-draped caskets but after 70 such sights, we no longer feel tears welling up. We see full military funerals but don’t feel a mother’s pain.
We have to accept as true assertions by parents and widows that the newly deceased soldier or police officer was living his dream. That he believed in the mission or the job. That he was trying in his own small way to bring civility back to the world. That he made the ultimate sacrifice doing what he loved.
In my own mind I can’t really separate the role of soldier from that of police officer. To have chosen a life based on service, discipline, uniforms, drills, and unquestioning obedience is not for most of us. To put one’s life on the line either in Europe decades ago, Afghanistan this year, or rural Canada any day is unbelievably generous. To lose a life to a psycho in Mayerthorpe or Hay River or Nunavut is just as unbelievably sad and tragic as dying in Kabul. The loss is no less to loved ones or Canada the community.
Wearing a poppy and attending a service on November 11 is important. It just shouldn’t be a substitute for daily gratitude and mindfulness. We all need to re-examine our beliefs and attitudes about military personnel, the mission in Afghanistan, and increased military spending.
What message are we conveying to our children? Are we keeping this issue front-of-mind? Are we showing and modelling the appropriate amount of gratitude and respect? What do we say and do when we see a police officer or heaven forbid get pulled over and ticketed? Does our behaviour exemplify the respect and gratitude we owe these men and women who leave their homes and loved ones to serve and protect us? If not, shame on us.
I don’t understand the dedication and sacrifice but I appreciate it. I wouldn’t want my children working in these professions but I’m glad some people’s kids do. I don’t want to forget or take anything for granted on November 11 or any other day. It’s up to each of us to make sure that doesn’t happen, from where I sit.