It is our prerogative as people whose lives are invested in this country to question the decisions our government and political leaders make. Certainly, we have a duty to question their military decisions which could have far-reaching consequences both here and in countries far away.
But we will never question the heroism and the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have represented this country around the world, whether in the theatres of war or in helping to keep the peace in war-torn countries.
So, this week, we joined the rest of the country to remember the men and women who chose to put on the military uniform to answer their country’s call to duty.
First referred to as Armistice Day back in 1918 to mark the end of the First World War, each year we pause at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to honour the sacrifices of the brave Canadians during that war and in every other conflict in which we have been engaged since.
We remember the close to 70,000 who gave their lives in the First World War; the almost 50,000 who perished in the Second World War and the more than 1,000 who died in other wars including the Boer War, the Korean War and the War in Afghanistan, and on peacekeeping duty.
This country, relative to the size of its population, has always punched above its weight when it came to standing up for freedom and justice around the world.
There are those among us who abhor all war and we understand their concern but it would be too simplistic to condemn all war. In a world that is rife with so much pain and injustice, sometimes looking the other way is not an option. Sometimes, going to war is the only way to rein in or stop forces that have as their only objective the domination and destruction of a people or a region.
So, for those willing to put themselves in harm’s way to try and improve the circumstances of their fellow man wherever the need is or wherever their country deems the need to be, the least we can do is to remember them and to honour their selflessness.
On Remembrance Day this year, we also paid tribute to soldiers drawn from our community whose lives were taken in battle, soldiers such as Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer and Pvt. Mark Graham.
We remembered the No. 2 Construction Battalion of WWI, and standout WWI soldiers such as ‘Curley’ Christian and Pvt. Jeremiah Jones, who at age 50 lied about his age in order to enlist. There were the five Carty brothers of New Brunswick, sons of Albert Carty of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, who all enlisted during the Second World War.
We remember also the recent shocking killings of two soldiers who died not in battle, but on Canadian soil. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent were killed because they were soldiers.
During this week, with emotions still raw from those recent killings, government leaders paid tribute to military bravery and to the war dead. But those still living with the horrors of war must not be forgotten.
No person who has served his or her country, who has faced the horrors of war and who now lives with those horrors, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any other disability as a result of his or her service to this great country should be without the best care that we can provide. For those returning from Afghanistan, for example, the rate of PTSD has doubled since 2002, and the Military bureaucracy seems unable or unwilling to meet its obligations to these men and women. That is a shame.
While we remember and honour those who have died, it would be morally irresponsible to not ensure that those who return home receive both the medical and financial support they deserve for their service to country.
Taking care of these soldiers would be a more meaningful tribute than laying commemorative wreaths, observing a moment of silence and expressing gratitude through speeches, heartfelt though they may be.