Rememberance Day is observed today in Canada, with cities and towns across Canada honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice during wars. Remembrance Day in some form has been marked in Canada and other Commonwealth nations since Nov. 11, 1919, a year after the Armistice was signed after World War I. In the United States Veterans Day is observed.
World War I, also known as the "Great War," was the war that was to end all wars, but that defies the nature of humanity. Since 1918, there have been several new conflicts, including the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans and most recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Great War was probably the last war in which two opposing military forces fought each other in trench warfare and did not involve civilians to the extent it happens today. World War II, with new technology, changed the face of war and concentrated on population centers, destroying whole cities, like the city of Dresden in Germany. In Afghanistan, although accurate figures are not available, the deaths of civilians outnumbers those of soldiers by approximately 3 to 1.
One should never lose sight of the fact though, that it is the politician who sends soldiers to war. The motives of politicians can be questioned, but it is the young 19-25 year olds who are making the sacrifice on behalf of these policies.
Canada reflects on the 2 million who made sacrifices since 1914
As previously mentioned, Remembrance Day marks the end of the first world war, which came into effect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 one year earlier.
With a population near 10 million, 650,000 Canadian and Newfoundlanders served during the war, which started in 1914. The ultimate sacrifice was made by 66,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders.
The Second World War, 1939-45
In 1939 Canadian found themselves in another major conflict in Europe, the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1945, Canadians fought in Europe, in places like Dieppe, Normandy, the North Atlantic, Hong Kong. Canadians fought during the liberation of the Netherlands. A strong bond exists between the Dutch people and Canadians. More than a million Canadians died during the Second World War.
Touring the grave sites in Normandy brings out the fact of the crucial role Canada played in the Normandy invasion. Emotionally, the grave markers send home the point that the majority of the young soldiers were just starting their lives. Yet they answered the call of their country to defeat the madman in Europe.
Korea is often referred to as the forgotten war. Characterized as a UN police action, it took Korean veterans half a century to get recognition.
UN peacekeeping missions
In the years between the Korean war and the war in the Balkans, Canadians were involved in every peace keeping mission undertaken by the UN. Canadians served in the Golan Heights, the Congo, Rwanda and Cyprus. Let us not forget those peacekeepers that made the ultimate sacrifice.
In the early 1990s, Canada's focus turned to peace making/peace enforcement in the Balkans. The operation was first conducted by the United Nations, but later taken on by NATO under the leadership of the United States. This was the conflict where Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first recognized by the Canadian government.
The first Canadian troops were deployed to Afghanistan in January 2002. That battle group also suffered its first four casualties by friendly fire from an American jet. Four members of the author's regiment were killed.
In the subsequent years, a total of 158 Canadian soldiers and two civilians paid the ultimate price. Canada stopped its combat mission last year, but 900 Canadians remain in Kabul, where they train Afghan Security Forces. Wikepedia More on Canada's military history
Ode to Remembrance
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell their faces to the foe.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget.