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Column: Canada's military history my greatest source of national pride

Canada has done great things in combat and peacekeeping missions in its history.
A tribute to those who have served Canada.

There is nothing that makes me prouder to be Canadian than our nation’s military history.

So many don’t realize how rich it is. And each year I learn new things about the impact that Canadian soldiers have had in both combat missions and peacekeeping efforts. (I can thank Craig Bird with the South East Military Museum, in part, for the growing education).

In the First World War, Canada punched well above its weight. It dislodged the Germans from Vimy Ridge in France after the British and the French previously failed. It fought in battles and sent many to war, despite having a population of less than 8 million people when the war broke out in 1914, and being under 50 years of age as a nation.

In the Second World War, we played an instrumental role in the D-Day invasion. Canadian soldiers were the only ones to meet their objective. Canadians liberated the Netherlands and our soldiers are still beloved in the country.

And again, we fought bravely in many battles and were instrumental in the Allied victories.

Of course, Canada suffered a terrible number of casualties in those conflicts. We can never forget those who died for their country. They not only fought for Canada at that time, but they served for future generations. There are those who came home with physical wounds and others who returned with mental scars due to what they saw and experienced.

We’ve made considerable contributions to other missions, whether they be combat or peacekeeping, before and after the two world wars.

I’ll admit I’m biased about Canada’s military. Both of my grandfathers served in the Second World War. Grandpa Willberg was a member of the Canadian Army who fought in the D-Day invasion. Grandpa Leguee was a member of the Signal Corps. The latter certainly doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for efforts to relay messages to the frontlines.

Other friends and family have served as well.

Are the Canadian Forces perfect? No. They’ve had their black-eye moments. And there are those who have not always conducted themselves in the finest fashion, whether it be when they are serving or afterwards.

For the most part, though, the men and women of the Canadian Forces have done a wonderful job of representing their country.

Remembrance Day approaching. For the first time since 2019, the Estevan branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is going to have the service indoors at the Estevan Comprehensive School. The legion did an admirable job during the pandemic of finding a way to hold a service, especially in 2020 when the restrictions were so strict.

There is something to be said about having the service outdoors at the city’s cenotaph. It just feels right. But there’s also an inherent risk in having it outdoors because we all know how unpredictable the weather can be in November. This year, it looks like it will be rather frigid on Remembrance Day, with inches of fresh snow covering the ground.

Being indoors on Nov. 11 will feel pretty good.

We’ve seen resurgences in interest in Remembrance Day over the years. It happened during the Afghanistan mission. The thought of Canadian soldiers dying in a combat mission suddenly became very real for younger generations who hadn’t seen it before.

Then there was the murders of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo two days apart in 2014. Attendance that year for Estevan’s Remembrance Day service might have been the highest I’ve seen. The 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War in 2018 also drew a large crowd.

Hopefully, we’ll see a large crowd at the Estevan Comprehensive School’s gymnasium for the service. It’s been three years since most people have been able to attend the service, so why not jump at the opportunity?

At the very least, take a few minutes to pause Friday morning and reflect on the sacrifices of those who have and continued to serve. Please wear a poppy and remember that the poppy sales are used to support veterans’ causes.

War is a terrible thing that has killed so many people and destroyed many more lives. Remembrance Day is not glorifying war. But we absolutely need to take the time to honour our veterans.

After all, if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have the country we have now and all of the opportunities that it presents.

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