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Remembrance Day

November 11, 2012 by  

Remembrance Day, Ask Canadians to visualize a typical Remembrance Day veteran and they’re likely to see a face furrowed with wrinkles, someone bent but braving the cold, perhaps in a wheelchair, with a frail hand raised in salute. And that’s a reasonable portrait of the roughly 100,000 Canadians remaining from among those who served in the Second World War. Average age: 88.

But it’s not typical of the 594,500 surviving veterans of Canada’s armed forces. Average age: 55. And many of the 40,000 who served in Afghanistan are still in their twenties and thirties.

Yet a recent Nanos poll done for Commissionaires, a non-profit organization helping veterans, found that more than 80 per cent of Canadians think primarily of First and Second World War veterans on Remembrance Day.

On this day, by all means, let’s recall the deeds of generations past, especially those who served in World War II, justifiably called the Greatest Generation. But let’s not forget to also pay tribute to the commitment and sacrifice of all who join the military and shoulder the often-difficult task of standing guard for Canada’s interests, at home and abroad.

Too often, those sacrifices continue long after they have re-entered civilian life – coming in the form of chronic unemployment; poverty; the pain of permanent physical injury; depression and substance abuse fuelled by post traumatic stress; badly run federal programs that frustrate rather than help; and bureaucratic penny-pinching that has denied too many poor vets even of access to a basic funeral.

Veterans have always faced challenges. It’s been more than 120 years since Rudyard Kipling highlighted in verse the different way soldiers are treated in peace and war. “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!” But it’s “Saviour of his country” when the guns begin to shoot.”

Even Canada’s celebrated World War Two veterans had to endure post traumatic stress disorder, by thousands, without any assistance from their government.

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