An Open Letter to Canadians from the Veterans Ombudsman

Ottawa - November 9, 2011

Poppy

As Canadians we enjoy many freedoms. Freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, freedom of association, freedom of mobility. These are the freedoms—and indeed, the rights—we enjoy in Canada.

These freedoms were hard won by Canadians willing to risk their lives to defend them. From the First and Second World Wars to the Korean War, through the Cold War and the Gulf War, in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, through decades of peacekeeping and peacemaking missions around the world, as well as operations here in Canada, millions of Canada’s young men and women have served to defend our rights and security and gave up a measure of their own freedom to preserve ours. Thousands and thousands of them have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Numbers alone cannot adequately represent the sacrifice of those who serve. The families who support them also make tremendous sacrifices with too little recognition. Mothers, fathers, spouses, sons and daughters stay behind and worry that the next knock on the door may bring the worst possible news. If it does, they carry on with their lives courageously, diminished by their loss. And when men and women in uniform return ill or injured, both they and their families must deal with the effects for the rest of their lives.

During Veterans’ Week, Canadians—through hundreds of commemorative ceremonies and events across the country—remember the Fallen, pay tribute to Canada’s Veterans of today and yesterday, and salute the men and women of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP who continue to serve our country with pride and courage as did Veterans before them. Later this week, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we will pause in silence to remember those who lost their lives serving our country.

Veterans' Week accentuates many very personal memories for Veterans—good memories and difficult ones. The nation’s expression of gratitude is a source of great pride and comfort to Canada’s Veterans and their families.

But as Canadians, we must also remember that while the majority of serving men and women leave the service healthy, a great number of them return to civilian life ill or injured. As a nation, we have the obligation to take care of the men and women that were put in harm’s way to protect our rights and freedoms. Ensuring that their needs are met is the nation’s greatest and most meaningful expression of gratitude.

Let this November 11 not be the only moment of the year that we offer to those who serve our country. As the Veterans Ombudsman and one of Canada’s almost 800,000 Veterans, I ask you to remember Canada’s Veterans—not just today, but every day.

Lest we forget.

Guy Parent

Veterans Ombudsman

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