November 11th marks Remembrance Day in Canada. Many of us will solemnly pay respect to the men and women who served our country and fought to preserve the values we so deeply believe. 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele. Victory on the muddy Belgian battlefield would prove costly. The lives of 4,000 Canadian soldiers would be lost, 12,000 would bare the physical scars from their wounds forever and countless others would suffer from the mental scars left behind from the gruesome realities of war.
It is with grave concern that I ask the question. Are we doing enough to remember those who fought for us? Are we teaching future generations enough to make them understand what their not too distant relatives did to ensure their freedom? Does Canada remember?
I was listening to a popular Toronto radio station last week. The host runs a segment that is meant to be funny to the listener usually at the expense of an unwitting caller. In this instance the caller was asked if he knew what Vimy Ridge was. The caller seemingly stumped was silent for a few moments but after prodding from the host said, “I believe that is a line of winter boarding wear.”
The host responded with “Really, an outdoor clothing line, Hmmm.”
The caller still not certain he was right replied, “Yep, I believe so.”
…and with bewilderment and a chortle the host ended the call with a final, “Yes, Vimy, the ridge that really shreds.”
In hindsight, it was not that funny. More and more I hear these stories where young Canadians don’t know their own history. They seem quite oblivious to the past, they don’t know why we remember and in some cases just don’t care.
I remember a time when our government barely acknowledged our veterans yet somehow my generation understood the importance of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices our soldiers made. Our schools had veterans attend assemblies and classes. We could interact with real war heroes. It made them relatable. Today’s youth do not have the same opportunities to meet veterans. The veterans of the great wars are no longer with us to tell their stories. Yes, there are military veterans out there but they just don’t make up significant numbers as the veterans of the great wars did to impact our children’s lives. War to our youth is distance, cold, calculated airstrikes in the night or god forbid a round or two of Call of Duty on their X-Box or Playstation console.
We as a society need to ensure the stories get told in our schools and in our public places. We need to find a way to make the acts of these heroic women and men relatable to the generations of young Canadians to come. For it is those generations that our veterans fought to protect, to ensure they continued to enjoy the freedom and prosperity to which we have become accustomed.
This Remembrance Day more than ever we need to ensure our children truly understand why we wear the poppy, why we gather and bow our heads in silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, why we enjoy the freedoms we have in this great democratic country we call Canada. If we don’t start now our ancestors and their sacrifice will be forgotten and our way of life threatened by the past we can’t remember.
Lest we forget…
Copyright 2017 Greg Glazebrook, All Rights Reserved.
Government of Canada
Veterans Affairs Canada
English: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng or French: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/fra
Canadian War Museum
Royal Canadian Legion