I see that the veterans’ industry, prompted by a mix of the fast fading Royal Canadian Legion and the bureaucrats who are looking for ways to avoid really helping wounded veterans, is in full flight:
- Veterans Affairs Canada is encouraging us to remember veterans in the week leading up to the day that was set aside to remember our war dead; and
- Kent Hehr, the Minister, is getting in on the act, too, as are other notables, including the leader of the opposition.
You might think that I, being a veteran, would be in favour of this … I’m not.
I self identify as an old, retired soldier … not as a veteran, although, officially and, I suppose, by most definitions of that term I am one.
I don’t object to following another American custom and having a Veterans Day … I object, strongly, to mixing it up with Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day began, as a solemn occasion, in 1919 when King George V started the custom of honouring those who had died on active service. The gaping emotional wounds of the Great War were still raw and blood red just a year after the armistice, Britain and the dominions had never imagined that any war could ever be so cruel or costly. So many had died … doing something to remember them was vital to the process of healing. There had been, on the evening of November 10th 1919, a big banquet in the royal palace, a celebration of the allied triumph. But the next day, in the morning, the king went outside to offer his thanks, on behalf of his nation and his empire, for the sacrifice of so many. As the years went by cenotaphs were built in great cities and in small towns; the Act of Remembrance was incorporated, we, Canadians, added in Flanders Fields and the poppy became a near universal symbol, the South Africans added the two minutes of silence, and, gradually, Remembrance Day evolved into what we have today. It’s highly imperfect: there is too much Royal Canadian Legion; not enough remembrance; too much attention to living veterans; not enough thought given to the dead; too many politicians in Ottawa and in cities, towns and villages, large and small; not enough of the Governor General and the Silver Cross Mother; too many flags; not enough simplicity; too many wreaths ~ every group has to be represented; not enough silence.
It, Remembrance Day, is not about veterans. It is about those who never came home, those who couldn’t “register” to be veterans because they lie, forever, in “some corner of a foreign field” or perhaps in no known grave at all.
Let’s, by all means have a Veterans’ Day: after all, the Americans have one so it must be good thing, and we should have one, too, right? Of course right! But let’s have it when the weather is nicer, and maybe we can celebrate our Veterans Day just like the Americans do, too … perhaps we could have ours in May, near to the American’s Memorial Day, perhaps on the last Sunday in May or the Sunday closest to VE day (8 May), which is almost six months away from the appropriately cold, often wet and generally uncomfortable November 11th. But let’s not, please, mix them up …