𝗕𝘆 𝗞𝗘𝗥𝗥𝗬 𝗗𝗜𝗢𝗧𝗧𝗘
𝗠𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗹𝗶𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁
Lest we forget. You’ll hear that phrase a lot on November 11. That’s what this day is all about. Not forgetting.
Not forgetting the sacrifices made by men and women in our military. Not forgetting they risked life and limb to defend freedom and democracy.
Not forgetting thousands of them who didn’t come back from those missions and are buried forever in foreign lands.
We should never forget.
I’m lucky enough to have grown up when there was a lot of attention paid to Canada’s proud military history.
In grade school and high school we learned about Canada’s enormous contributions especially during the second world war when more than a million Canadians served in the military. More than 45,000 of them died.
In school we became familiar with famous places like Flanders, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge, Ortona, Normandy, Dieppe and others. Places where brave Canadians fought and died.
I grew up in an age where lots of adults could claim to have served overseas in the first and second world wars.
Some told me stories of what it was like to be a young person being shipped overseas to fight an enemy in a distant country.
It was hard to imagine how different the lives of those young people were compared to the lives of youth today.
Those young people back then knew about hardship, sacrifice, public service, danger … And death.
In 1994 i was lucky to have had the chance to hear first-hand about the second world war from many of the people who fought in it.
I joined D-day veterans for a trip aboard the QE2 from New York city bound for Europe and the beaches of Normandy. I was a journalist joining these veterans on that special trip to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-day.
Many of those veterans had stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-day. They told me that just getting there in 1944 they had to endure severe sleep deprivation from rough seas and spoiled food. Both of those things made them sick as dogs.
On their return to the beaches of Normandy in 1994 they were in the lap of luxury. They were eating five-course gourmet meals and being entertained on board by celebrities who were popular in the 1940s like bob hope, Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney and the Andrews sisters.
These veterans deserved to be spoiled, I think.
My job then was to write a daily column for sun newspapers about the trip and there was no end of amazing stories. It was hard at first to get some veterans to open up about their war experiences but when they did it was jaw-dropping.
They told me about being sick. About being tired. About being scared. About the searing pain when they were wounded in action. About the horrible deaths in battle of close friends and relatives.
I could have written 10 articles a day from all these eyewitnesses to history. I talked to other journalists aboard that trip and we agreed it was the best assignment we’d ever had.
It really felt good to be able to give these brave men and women a voice and to write this slice of invaluable war history. History that can educate…so we’ll never forget.
There was one burning question I kept asking all of these veterans … Why did you do it? Why did you sign up right out of high school to fight a war overseas? To go somewhere where you could have easily been killed?
I’m not sure my friends and I would have done that after high school and I’m not sure kids of today would either.
The best answer I got from a couple of second world war vets was: “it was just the thing to do. My buddies were all going and I thought I should too.”
It’s incredible to think that service to country was so strong in that generation. We should never forget.
I believe the best way to ensure we don’t forget is to keep teaching every generation.
To teach them the sacrifices made by the people who fought in the second world war, served in other battles — or continue to serve in today’s military.
That’s why I have to give a big salute to an initiative that helps educate today’s youth.
You might have heard of it. It’s called no stone left alone. As the member of parliament for Edmonton Griesbach, I’ve been honoured to participate in it this year and in past years.
No stone left alone started right here in Edmonton and it’s spread worldwide. It teaches school kids about military service. At this annual event school children place a single poppy on the gravestones of fallen soldiers. It’s a very moving annual event and very educational.
It’s absolutely vital, I believe, to teach today’s kids just how lucky we are to live in a truly free society. That’s especially important when you hear about some North American teenagers naively expressing fondness for communist regimes or for other systems of government that enslave their citizens.
I’ve often thought that every high school should bring in speakers regularly who have fled to Canada after suffering under repressive systems whether it be communism, fascism or other forms of dictatorship.
That would serve to remind children just how lucky we all are to live in a country like Canada. A country where we have freedoms that are the envy of hundreds of millions of less-fortunate people worldwide.
Freedoms like democratic elections, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of speech.
These are the freedoms brave Canadian men and women fought and died for. They fought and died so that we can proudly say we are the true north strong and free.
We are here today to celebrate and commemorate that.
We should never forget.