Canada’s newest veterans join in a hallowed history of service

Poppy sales officially began October 31, as usual the last Friday in October, and with them Canada’s official period of veteran and war dead remembrance commenced, culminating on Remembrance Day, next Tuesday November 11.

It’s interesting to note that last weekend, right after the season of remembrance began, Canada created a new cadre of war veterans when, on Sunday, two RCAF aircraft bombed ISIS/ISLI/IS targets in Syria.

These bombing runs by two of the six aircraft Canada has committed to action against the militant group intent on creating an Islamic State in the Middle East, one that will supersede and ignore existing boundaries in countries like Iraq, Syria and possibly Jordan, are Canada’s first foray into this Middle East conflict that most Canadians doubtless do not comprehend.

The ISIS/ISIL/IS forces seek to accomplish the ideal Islamic State by any means possible, including terrorist actions against domestic military forces and civilians alike in the Mideast regions they have targeted as the basis for the new state, and so Canada has joined the defense along with allies from Europe, the United States and with support of many Mideast nations.

So the pilots of these CF18 Hornet aircraft, together with their aircrews, join the ranks of those who have gone to war on Canada’s behalf.

For many people of a certain age, Remembrance Day means the veterans of the Second World War, just as for those who came of age in the 1920s and 1930s thought exclusively of the veterans of the Great War or, as it came to be known, as World War One.

Of course most of us know, or know of, veterans of our decade in Afghanistan in the conflict in that remote area which represents Canada’s largest-ever involvement in a foreign war.

In the early 1990s, Canadian ground and air troops participated in Kuwait in the First Gulf War and, of course, our armed forces have been involved in United Nations peacekeeping missions since the very first one, in Egypt, that defused the Suez Canal Crisis in the fall of 1956 (and the concept for UN peacekeeping was that of former Prime Minister and Algoma East MP Lester B. “Mike” Pearson).

Canadian troops have seen service in Bosnia, Rwanda, Korea and in Cypress as part of United Nations forces or as United Nations peacekeepers or as part of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, as allies for a common cause (as is the current situation in the Mideast) and we have committed forces to the two great European conflicts that together, defined not only the second half of the Twentieth Century but continue to impact on the world today.

This year, 2014, marks the centennial of the hostilities that began in August of 1914 and continued until November 11, 1918. It marks the one-year anniversary since we ended our military commitment in Afghanistan and by November 11, Remembrance Day must consider those who are currently putting themselves in peril in Syria and Iraq.

That’s a wide spectrum of military activities for a relatively young (147 years) nation but our local community services of remembrance on Manitoulin and Remebrance Week installations such as the one currently in place at the Billings Old Mill Heritage Centre museum in Kagawong offer some important perspectives to those of us who have only heard of war and not experienced it even second-hand.

(The display at the museum in Kagawong is a large one of military artifacts from both the First and Second World Wars taken from a private collection and the Irish Regiment, loaned to the museum for an important display to mark the centennial of the opening of hostilities in 1914. It could easily be part of anyone’s Remembrance Week observances, especially young people for whom stories of Canada’s heroism is largely rendered as a series of dates and specified significant actions like Vimy Ridge as part of a history lesson at school.)

There is much to think about this Remembrance Week, just as there always is, but most notably we can and should think that through virtually all of the period since the end of the Second World War in 1945, Canada’s service people have been helping out, keeping the peace or intervening against terrorist forces, continuously.

Just as they are today.

Lest we forget.