Lest We Forget All Year

Ottawa - November 20, 2013

November 11th is a week past and already Veterans’ voices have begun to ebb and the media hype on Veterans, their families, and their issues has been toned down. 

As usual, Veterans’ Week was very busy with many events, ceremonies and opportunities for networking with Veterans advocates but most of all, there were many chances to talk face-to-face with Veterans and their families.

For me, Veterans’ Week started on November 2nd with an afternoon spent at the Junior Ranks mess where I met with serving members, Canadian Armed Forces Veterans, and a World War II Veteran and his spouse. It was a very good event with pertinent questions and a great way for all to tell their stories, including myself, of course. 

There was a flurry of activities on November 4th starting with the Annual Breakfast, followed by the Official Opening Ceremony in the Senate Chamber. I am always in awe of the Senate murals that depict such important pages of our history. Also inspiring that day were the many words of commemoration, and recognition of service and sacrifice that resonated within those historic walls.

The next day, November 5th, my wife Helen and I attended the Ottawa Candlelight tribute to Veterans at the Centrepointe Theatre. Sponsored by the City of Ottawa, this yearly event symbolizes the passing of the torch from the older generation to the newer ones as Veterans pass their lit candles from the centre to the sides of the theatre where they are received by representatives of the youth of Canada and then carried to a makeshift cenotaph on stage. This is followed by prayers, the Last Post, the Reveille, Acts of Remembrance, and minutes of silence. In addition, as in previous years, a street in an Ottawa new development neighbourhood was dedicated to a Veteran. This year, Major (Ret’d) W. Barry Helman, a Veteran of the Korean War and an active member of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping, was honoured.  

After what seemed like a lot of television appearances and radio interviews, we finally reached November 11th and I attended the official Remembrance Day Ceremony at our National Cenotaph. As in the past, this year's event was very impressive and very moving. The number of people attending seems to increase every year and the traditional laying of worn poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the end of the ceremony is particularly poignant as the tomb's stone colour disappears to make way for a bright red blanket of caring and remembrance.

As the intensity of the week died down, I realized how inspiring is was because all of the Veterans that I met over the course of the week are, in fact, around us the rest of the year. So, why is it that we only praise our Veterans and their families during this one week of the year, and seem to forget them the rest of the year? Why not go show them the same appreciation throughout the entire year that we now show them only during Veterans Week?

Next year, as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, let us ensure that November 11th is not the only time that we recognize the service and sacrifices of our Veterans and their families. Next year, let us find a way to thank our Veterans and their families for their contribution every day of the year.

Lest we forget.


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