November 11, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 40  

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NEWS

Lest we forget the meaning of the day

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

As a time to honour those who fought for freedom and peace, Remembrance Day also serves as a reminder of just how lucky the current generation of students are to have been spared the horrors of war at the level they once were.

Mark Sellars, general manager of the University Students’ Council, joined the Canadian military at the age of 17 and served for 26 years, retiring as a lieutenant-colonel.

“It’s a mark of success that our young people, as a whole, don’t have a deep understanding of the impact of war,” Sellars says.

Having served at posts in Norway, Germany, Italy and the Arctic, as well as on peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Croatia, Angola, Mozambique and South Africa, Sellars notes how the Canadian military has evolved. “I think it is in many ways more professional than it ever was,” he says. “More people have more operational experience than used to be the case in the 1970s and ’80s.

“Overall, the Canadian military is less effective, mostly due to [a decrease] in size and increase in social experience,” Sellars explains.

Beyond actual combat and the hard work training, one of the most difficult aspects of a career in the armed forces is the continual movement, Sellars explains. “You don’t have the opportunity to become part of a wider community,” he says, adding constant relocation can be difficult on families.

After a lifetime of experience in the military, Sellars notes some of the difficulties transitioning to a civilian career. “Within the military environment, everyone wears their careers,” he says, noting uniform elements including rank and medals show an officer’s history — something not true in civilian life. “You, in many ways, wear your resumé.”

Associate history professor Jonathan Vance acknowledges the different perspective the current generation of students may have on Remembrance Day. “[War is] so much more abstract when you haven’t dealt with it personally,” he says.

Vance notes the outpouring of emotions when Canadian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. “If you remember that and multiply by thousands, you can feel what it might have been like [during prolonged war].”

USC Remembrance Day commissioner Carson Choy says students are capable of recognizing the day’s importance given current events. “It’s more meaningful to us right now given what’s happening [in Iraq and Afghanistan].”

For Sellars, the day is more than just a moment of silence. “First and foremost, it means that there are still things in the world that principled people believe are worth fighting for.

“It’s also an opportunity for Canada as a whole to be unabashedly proud of this country’s commitment to peace over the last century,” Sellars explains. “It’s a reminder that the political decisions in this arena come with a heavy price tag.”

 

 

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