Remembering those who served our country means honouring all veterans

Decades have passed since World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Remembrance Day gives Canadians an opportunity to honour veterans and our forces members serving today in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

“It’s the one day a year when we can mark that 117,000 people have died and have made the ultimate sacrifice for the survival and peace that we enjoy in our country today,” says Bob Butt, Director of Communications at the Royal Canadian Legion.

For some, Remembrance Day hits home and lasts all year. “When I was growing up, our crossing guard was a veteran who would come to our school on Remembrance Day to talk to us about his time in the war,” says Cyndi Mills, the founder, editor and publisher of “Ubiquitous” magazine.

“Today, it’s not a one day a year thing. Remembering happens every single day.”

Mills’ husband is in the military and has served on numerous missions most recently returning from Afghanistan. Together they have four children ranging in age from 16 to 2. 

Linking the Present with the Past

World War I ended over 80 years ago and Canada lost its last veteran of that war in 2010. While it’s important to honour their service, it’s also important to honour the service of soldiers today.

“A veteran is a veteran is a veteran. It doesn’t matter what war he’s fought in or where he has served or how he has gone to his service to the country,” says Butt.

Honouring the soldiers who have served in the more recent missions is a way of linking the past with the present, says Adelard Comeau, the Manager of Web Content and Learning Directorate at Veterans Affairs

Regardless of time period, these individuals have been fighting for the same purpose. Some sacrificed their lives, and some returned home changed by what they saw in the line of duty. He says, “They gave a lot to achieve peace.”

For those who don’t know anybody who has served in the military or for some new Canadians, “remembrance becomes an idea that is difficult to comprehend,” Comeau says.  “The vast majority of us, especially the youth, have no first hand or even second hand knowledge of war, and thankfully so. But we can understand and appreciate the sacrifices and accomplishments of those who have served Canada.”

Observing Remembrance Day in Schools

Different schools have different histories and different ways of commemorating Remembrance Day. Children are encouraged to wear poppies and some schools have assemblies.

Mills and her family have lived in various cities around the country. In London, schools have marked Remembrance Day by inviting a soldier or veteran to speak to the entire school about their experience at war.  In Petawawa, soldiers will read the names of military people who have died or been killed in action over the past year.

“When you start to hear the names, you may not know the soldier or the military member, but you can understand what the family is going through,” says Mills.  “For those military families who have children, the child grows up without a parent. It’s difficult. It can be overwhelming. It’s one day at a time.”

Advice to parents?

Butt says not to force kids to talk about Remembrance Day. “When they ask, talk,” he says. Comeau also recommends that parents should be open to discussing Remembrance Day, when their kids are. “Parents may not know answers, but parents and children can find answers together in books and on the internet,” he says.

The key is to keep the discussion going and ask what we can do to remember those who ensure we live in a peaceful country. “You can make remembrance not just a one day affair, but a year long affair,” say Comeau.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand that generations of veterans have served our country and have made sacrifices and contributions that ensure we live in a free and peaceful country. Once we understand this, we can understand the importance of thanking them and remembering their contributions.