In Service of Canada

Ottawa, ON – November 10, 2014

This text was authored by Guy Parent, Veterans Ombudsman, and originally published in The Hill Times on Monday, November 10, 2014.

As we approach Remembrance Day this year and reflect on the sacrifices of generations of Canadians who joined the armed forces to defend our values and our freedom, let us not forget to honour also those who serve today in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. While service to Canada has many positive effects, it does come at a cost to both those who serve and their families.

We have all seen the visible effects of those who become injured or ill as a result of their service. Seeing someone with missing limbs or hearing the public testimony of someone suffering from PTSD immediately brings home the cost of their service both to them and to their families. Seeing family members who have sacrificed their personal and professional lives to be caregivers for their loved ones is another visible reminder of the effects of service on military and RCMP families. But, what is not seen as easily are the day-to-day effects of military and police service.

Not being there for your child’s first day of school, missed birthdays and anniversaries, hockey and softball games …to say nothing of often long absences from home, moving every four or five years, children changing schools, the loss of employment opportunities for spouses and having to rebuild support networks over and over again… these are things that are a constant in every military and RCMP family’s life.

Not knowing if your loved one is going to come home alive or coping with the after effects of being involved with horrific events takes its toll not only on the serving member, but on the family as well. And, for many, the personal cost of service does not end with release from service: reentry into civilian life can hold its own challenges.

Not long ago, a daughter of a Second World War Veteran described to my Office how her father was so effected by his service that he withdrew into himself and became house bound. Her mother became the sole provider for the family, coping with her husband’s anger and emotional isolation. The daughter described a childhood of living in fear of upsetting the “balance” in the house and how it affected her ability to maintain positive relationships in her life. Even though this started a decade after the Second World War, this family was another casualty of that War which is still affecting these family members today.

This year’s Remembrance Day marks the first after the Afghanistan mission and our first one as we start a mission in Iraq and Syria. It comes on the heels of the killing of two Canadian Armed Forces members who were ambushed on Canadian soil. Nor should we forget the three RCMP members who were also killed not that long ago in Moncton. These aggressive acts were perpetrated by those who do not respect the men and women in uniform who stand on guard for us and the values that we Canadians hold dear. These events are grim reminders to all of us that the men and women who volunteer to serve our country do so in full knowledge that they are potentially putting themselves at risk… even at home.

On Remembrance Day this year, while honouring those who gave their lives for us in the past, let us also honour the day-to-day sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform who serve our country so valiantly today, as well as the families who support them. Let us also remember that domestic operations and training can have the same catastrophic effects for some families as international deployments can have for others. Above all, let us strengthen our resolve to ensure that those who stood on guard for us in the past, as well as those who stand on guard for us today, have no reason to doubt our commitment to them.

 

Guy Parent

Veterans Ombudsman

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Comments

Sylvain Chartrand said:

Very good article Mr Parent.

November 10, 2014 7:04 PM