Respect the sacrifice

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

November 9, 2007 Ed Cartoon

On Sunday, the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians will commemorate the tremendous sacrifice of our fallen soldiers who died for Canada and Canadians on Remembrance Day.

We proudly wear poppies, observe two minutes of silence, and attend commemorative ceremonies, but most importantly we take pause to remember the men and women who served on our behalf.

We commemorate the service of soldiers in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, but should we not also think of current Canadian Forces members?

It might surprise Western students to know some of their fellow students are members of the CF, who have served or will serve their country overseas.

These students, however, are reticent to discuss their service with fellow students due to the stigma placed on members of the military; they are proud of their service, but do not volunteer this information in the classroom.

Many are quick to judge men and women in the military.

With the controversy surrounding the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan, those who disagree with these missions find it difficult to separate the soldier from his or her mission. It can be hard to respect a soldier when one does not respect the mission.

Some Canadians also recall Canada’s legacy, or myth, as a peacekeeping nation and wish to see the military assume more peacekeeping than combat duties.

It is hard for some Canadians to support the military when they feel the objective of the mission is ambiguous and not as black and white as in the two World Wars.

We should support our soldiers on a human level, however, and separate the soldier and the mission ‚Ä" even if we disagree with the mission.

It may be easier to support veterans of the World Wars since the soldiers represented everyday people: the mechanic who lived next door, or a classmate who sacrificed his life to fight for our freedom.

Military service is now perceived as exploitation of the less fortunate that do not have many other opportunities or as an outlet for violent personalities or power mongers.

This stigma, however, is unfounded.

Young people join the military for a variety of reasons; many join to make a difference and bear witness to global events. If we took a moment to ask our peers who serve in the military about their service, we might be surprised at their response.

Students who serve in the military should not be afraid to share their experience with their fellow students, who could only benefit from such an exchange.

It is vital we remember all those who sacrificed their lives for us in past wars, but at the same time, we should honour those who sacrifice their lives for us now or in the future without a caveat.

Even if we do not like the war they are fighting, we should respect their choice to serve and the goal of their service.

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