• Tom Batty

Shared Security Requires Days of Remembrance

It’s a couple of days after Remembrance Day. We’ve taken off our poppies, returned to work and school, and our thoughts are now moving towards when to take out the Christmas decorations. It’s the same whether you’re a civilian or in uniform. We all came together to pause, remember and give thanks at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month and with that duty performed we keep going.

I’d like to suggest we keep going together. It is a well-researched and documented fact that although soldiers do fight for ‘Queen and country’ and other noble causes, the main reason soldiers are willing to risk and potentially lose their lives is for their brothers and sisters in arms – their friends, their trench-mates and their fellow crew members. In a nutshell, soldiers fight for each other. Having survived through the realities of war, our veterans also feel compelled to maintain societal awareness as a means to dissuade future conflict.

For families of veterans, both living and fallen, Remembrance Day also serves a very important function – that of education and understanding. Which is why I believe that while Remembrance Day is important, it is only a means to an end. If we are to actually achieve what veterans want – to learn through remembrance so we can avoid future conflicts, we need to practise the act of remembrance throughout the year. In that spirit, I offer a few ideas to make acts of remembrance something we do throughout the year.

  • Take the time to acknowledge the service of our veterans and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces in meaningful ways throughout the year. They are not looking for accolades or thanks, but it demonstrates that we won’t forget.

  • Spend time with a serving or retired soldier and listen to a war story or two. You will benefit greatly from the experience and the soldier will feel that they have ‘done their duty’ – using their individual stories to ensure we do not forget.

  • Take a moment to discuss your family’s military history with young people. The vast majority of Canadians have ancestors who fought or played an important role in our country’s war efforts. These stories need to be told and passed on.

I have spent many an afternoon, on November 11th participating in post-parade receptions at Legions across Canada. It is a true ‘band of brothers and sisters’ spanning multiple generations and incredible experiences. Invariably, groups of veterans, serving soldiers, families and friends will subdivide into smaller, intimate groups.

The discussions always start off with comments on the weather, the length of the ceremony and other idle chatter. Invariably, a comment will be made about the dwindling number of veterans present at the ceremony and, over time, the discussion turns to reminisce about a time in a Veteran’s life where friendship, comradery and trench-mates were all important. Soldiers, both serving and retired, refer to this as telling war stories. The serving soldiers shut up and listen carefully as there is much to be learned from the veterans, it is truly an educational experience.

Our soldiers fully comprehend the importance of this interaction with our veterans and will often stay until late in the evening. It is of utmost importance to our veterans that their fallen friends and their reasons for fighting, not be forgotten and that future wars be avoided at all costs.

Drawing attention to these stories on Remembrance Day is critically important; learning from them in order to secure our peace and security is something we as citizens need to practise throughout the year.