Remembrance Day follows on the heels of Halloween. Our school kids brought home a Halloween activity package of about 11 pages of photocopied sheets. Mine brought nothing home for Remembrance Day.
Some would say “we don’t want to glorify war . . .” as a rationale for not providing some hands-on home work to share with Mom and Dad about Remembrance Day. But should it all be poppies and crosses?
Being a service man or woman is an honourable career choice — one we effectively avoid offering our children from early grades. If your family is not rich and you’d like to be a doctor, the Canadian Forces will pay for your training. Your price? A commitment to three years of service.
If you like electronics and communications, the Canadian Forces can put you on the leading edge of com-tech — and once you leave the service, you can turn that into a real world career.
If you want to travel, see the world, do something for humankind — the Canadian Forces can also give you that, and a salary, camaraderie, a purpose, a life.
It might be dangerous. I’m not talking about Afghanistan. I’m talking about Haiti — where Canadian Forces were early on the scene with food and water, and weapons to quell rioting. Where an earthquake or aftershock could strike you down just like any other, weapons or not. Where disease is the invisible enemy and your best weapon is luck.
I’m talking about being on a Canadian navy boat confronting Somali pirates. Sometimes you shoot, sometimes you board their boat, check them out and give them food and water.
What a strange set of challenges the Canadian Forces face in these life-and-death missions. It’s not about killing, but saving . . . but being ready and able to shoot if you have to.
I’m talking about delivering food aid to the various bloody dots on the map of Africa; driving a white UN peacekeeper armoured personnel carrier through territory where you look like a naked man whose body is studded with hundred dollar bills to the locals.
Those waiting in ambush don’t desire peace but survival — and you have to be the bridge between insanity and humanity.
I’m talking about defending those other peacemakers — the NGOs — often small groups of extremely dedicated individuals who wouldn’t last long if without the protection of the Canadian Forces.
Even when there’s unexpected humanitarian disaster at home — well somehow we just understand that it will be the Canadian Forces who save us.
So why aren’t these stories more public? Why don’t we teach our kids?
We are a country that relies on volunteers to join our forces — but we barely give our kids that choice. Ironically, the peacenik countries of Europe like Sweden (until last June), Germany, Austria, Denmark and Finland and Switzerland still have compulsory military duty for their youth.
Sweden in her time wanted to have a reserve army of 500,000, some six per cent of a population of some eight million, to fend off any threat by Russia. Canada has a force of about 67,000 with some 26,000 reservists . . . to even dream of getting close to a six per cent ratio, we’d have to have about two million people in the Canadian Forces or as reservists.
But of course we don’t face a threat from Russia, do we?
They’re just planting their flag under the Arctic seas on territory we claim. By the way, Russia has an active military force of a million and 20 million reservists, out of a population of 141 million.
George Friedman of the global intelligence assessment group STRATFOR in his Geopolitical Journey notes:
“When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and withdrew to the borders of old Muscovy, there were those who said that this was the end of the Russian empire. Nations and empires are living things until they die. While they live, they grow to the limits set by other nations. They don’t grow like this because they are evil. They do this because they are composed of humans who always want to be more secure, more prosperous and more respected. It is inconceivable to me that Russia, alive and unrestrained, would not seek to return to what it once was. . . . This has nothing to do with leaders or policies. There is no New World Order, only the old one replaying itself in infinitely varying detail, like a kaleidoscope.”
As they said in Rome: If you want peace, prepare for war, or more correctly “Therefore, he who wishes peace, should prepare war; he who desires victory, should carefully train his soldiers; he who wants favourable results, should fight relying on skill, not on chance.” Vegetius 390 AD Epitoma Rei Militaris
We need to remember our troops on active duty everywhere — and to teach our children about real choices and historic realities.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka-based freelance writer.