Remembrance Day is upon us and, soon, Canadians will solemnly stand at ceremonies where they will wear poppies, observe a moment of silence, speak the words “Lest we Forget”, and listen as the Last Post sounds.
Of course the focus of these ceremonies still has meaning for a handful of aging vets and their families, and their structure was doubtlessly appropriate when those present, or the local community as a whole, had suffered personal loss in two world wars.
But these days, the nationalizing of remembrance has caused the day to lose much of it’s meaning.
With the passage of time, the sacrifices of WWII have about the same resonance with today’s young people as the end of the American Civil War would have had with the soldiers who landed on the beaches of France in 1944.
That’s not to say that Remembrance Day should be abandoned; it simply needs to experience a shift in focus.
It’s time for Canadians to remember that while we need to remember the sacrifices of the past, we also owe a real debt to the men and women that have continued to serve our country.
That second part is a real debt that can’t be paid through a symbolic day of remembrance. It calls for real action.
Take Cockrell House as an example. More than 100 veterans have been helped there after they returned from service, only to find that they can no longer navigate civilian life.
The Canadian Legion acknowledges that this number is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are thousands of homeless vets needing our help. But the Legion doesn’t get the support it needs and funding is always a challenge.
Worse, some veterans will never find the help they need.
One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian Armed Forces members were lost in Afghanistan but we forget, or worse, don’t know, that more than 30 others returned from that conflict and took their own lives.
That’s too often a consequence of service.
There have been 155 suicides by soldiers since 2010 and fifteen soldiers committed suicide in 2018 alone.
In a startling revelation in 2016 Senator and retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire revealed that after his tour of duty in Rwanda, he attempted to kill himself on four separate occasions.
Certainly we need to remember, but let’s shift at least some of that remembrance to those who continue to serve.