Lest I forget

By DJ Kelly November 8, 2007

For those of you that don’t know: Remembrance Day is this Sunday. (A little ironic if you forgot, isn’t it?)

This a day taken for granted by many in my generation because we’ve never experienced war. I can’t even imagine what it was like to see fathers or sons off on a train or streamliner with a rifle in their hand. I try to think about what it would be like for me to be one of those loved ones waving back as we travel off into the distance on our way to a muddy field somewhere. I’m a marketing and communications professional; what would I do with a rifle? I can’t think of a single transferable skill I have that would prepare me for such a thing.

Instead I spend one minute at 11:11am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year thinking about the only two people I really know that have fought in a war: my two grandfathers. Both passed on while I was younger (one when I was 9 the other when I was 14) so my only memories of them are as caring old men that I looked up to. I may not know any Canadian soldiers or what my grandfathers might’ve done during the war, but that it would take a lot for me to not cherish that annual single minute of silence that I spend thinking about them. I miss them. I miss them a lot.

Candace Van Apeldoorn, a colleague of mine at SAIT, sent around a great email today that sums up many peoples’ feelings on Remembrance Day and she provides some interesting stats. She does it in a much more eloquent way than I ever could. With her permission I pass it on to you in hopes that you will find time to ‘remember’ this Sunday.

As we approach November 11, I find myself looking for ways to make the Day relevant and meaningful for a younger generation.

Canada is down to one last WWI veteran. The average age of the 200,000 WWII veterans is 84. Even our 14,000 Korean War veterans are 76.

It’s hard for our students and many of us to find personal meaning in events so far removed from our personal histories.

As Canadians, our military contributions continue to include young people who lose their lives for causes they believe in.

Since our involvement in Afghanistan in 2002, we have lost 71 Canadian soldiers. The average age of these recent casualties – 29.

For me, Remembrance Day isn’t about old soldiers. It’s about the young people of a nation sacrificing their youth to be a part of a cause that they feel is bigger than themselves. Whether we agree with the politics or not, I believe we should honour their lives – those lost and those forever altered.

Bear with me for a little math. In WWI, 650,000 Canadians served in the military, and 69,000 were killed. The total population at the time was less than 8 million. Half were women, and about a third of the population would have been “fighting age”. That means approximately half of the men, 16-40, were involved in the military war effort. Look around SAIT – we have about 14,000 students in full-time or apprenticeship programs. Imagine 700, just from SAIT, not coming home. The numbers for WWII work out a little better, so 30 years later this same SAIT community would only lose 350 men.

Today, the Canadian Forces has about 62,000 regular force members, and 25,000 reserve force members. It’s certainly not as large a force as it was, but the work done is no less important. We currently have about 3,000 Canadians serving in international missions. My brother-in-law is one of them. May they all come home safely.

So on Sunday, think about not just those that were sacrificed 90 years ago, or 60 years ago. Or about the 80-year old veterans that are still with us. But think about how almost 2 million young Canadian adults have given of themselves to do what they saw would make the world a better place. Think of our students, and how grateful we can be that we aren’t losing 100 a year that don’t come home, or the hundreds a year that would have come home broken.

I don’t believe Remembrance Day is about having a holiday. I don’t understand why we have Monday off “in lieu”. I believe it’s about taking time to honour the memory, recognize the contributions and sacrifices of those that have served and those that have lost, and think about how much further we have to go.

There are a lot of Remembrance services going on in our city. The main service is at the Jubilee – doors open at 8:30 and the service begins at 10:30. The Military Museums on Crowchild also hosts a large service, starting at 10:40.

Every Royal Canadian Legion in the city will have their own local service:

RCL Branch No. 1 Calgary (116 7 Ave SE)

RCL Branch No. 52 Hugh Farthing Memorial (1910 Kensington Rd NW)

RCL Branch No. 154 Ogden (2625 78 Ave SE)

RCL Branch No. 275 Forest Lawn (755 40 St SE)

RCL Branch No. 238 Bowness (138 Bowness Ctr NW)

RCL Branch No. 284 Chapelhow (606 38 Ave NE)

RCL Branch No. 285 Centennial (9202 Horton Rd SW)

RCL Branch No. 286 Jubilee (6208 Rundlehorn Dr NE)

RCL Branch No. 289 Millennium (2828 28 St NW)

You could also watch the national service on TV, or sit with your family and watch a war movie – discussing the significance of the story. I urge you to find a way to honour the day that’s meaningful for you.

Lest we forget.

Candace Van Apeldoorn (Capt)