Lest we forget the meaning of the day
By Emmett Macfarlane
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
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
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
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