From the two Great Wars to today in Afghanistan, men and woman are committing their lives to serve and protect us. It can’t get more personal than that. As we gather on November 11th at legions, cenotaphs, and community halls, we need to thank past and current military personnel for the job they do and for their presence as part of the day’s solemn program. We also need to pay tribute to each of their families—parents, siblings, spouses, and children—for the sacrifices they make in supporting that career choice. How many of us would be willing to serve our country in this way? (I know I’m grateful that neither Roy nor the kids chose that path.)
We can only hope that the government quickly announces increased services, benefits, and equipment for active members and veterans; a tangible sign that as Canadians we are no longer taking these sacrifices of life, health, and family for granted.
Each year we are encouraged to remember. But maybe the question should be ‘why remember’? Simply put, there are more than 110,000 reasons. That is the number of men and women who have died in service to our country. More than one and a half million people have served, and continue to serve, in combat and peacekeeping missions all over the world.
It is our duty to acknowledge and honour the sacrifices that these brave men and women made and continue to make. While the rules and tools of combat have changed over the decades, the mission and the goals remain the same: to protect the efforts for peace and freedom around the world. We are blessed that a war has never been fought on Canadian soil.
Remembrance Day is a day of symbolism, observance, and meaning. Wearing a poppy, attending a ceremony, laying a wreath, and respecting the moments of silence are some of the easiest ways to show our gratitude. But each of us can do more. We can talk to young people about war, we can personally thank armed forces personnel when we see them, we can encourage our government to improve resources to veterans and families of lost members.
By remembering their service and sacrifice we recognize the tradition of freedom these men and women fought to preserve. They believed their actions would ensure a future of peace. Today we should honour their courage and sacrifice, and acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they fought to achieve. To do any less would betray that memory and effort.
We can allow ourselves to shed a tear or feel a tingle as we hear the piper’s lament or the bugler’s Last Post and Reveille. We can take pride in the Canadian flag and national anthem. We can try to understand these lines from Robert Binyon’s For the Fallen:
“They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.”
We can remember, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.