It has been eight years since the United States and other Nato nations entered Afghanistan. Seven years for the Canadian military. In fact Canada has now been at war with the Taliban longer than they were at war in World War 2.
For many Canadians in the years after World War 2 until 9/11 many did not understand or appreciate the work their troops did to fight for their freedom. Canadian soldiers lived, died and were largely mistreated by the people they were defending.
In Bosnia as UN peacekeepers the Canadians were forced into the middle of one no win situation one after another. As they put their lives on the line trying to prove War crimes the government and population were slowly strangling their financial lifeline.
In Somalia, an incident with the Airborne forces led to conclusions that our soldiers were not defenders of freedom but some kind of Rambo crazies. The Liberal government left the soldiers to pay the price for their own mistakes, thus the morale was placed at an all time low.
Yet time after time troops were shuffled like pawns into hellhole after hellhole. For the most part they did outstanding work with tiny resources, apathy or loathing at home. The truth was that most Canadians did not understand the need for the Armed Forces. They saw themselves defended by the United States and military spending as somehow redundant.
But yet we sent our men and women in the fire line over and over to act as peacemakers and peacekeepers.
I perceived that this has slowly changed since the terrorists attacked the United States. It showed no one was safe. And then terrorism came to our country once again. We arrested plotters bent on causing death and destruction in our back yard. Suddenly, it all changed. Now many of us sympathize with the soldiers, their deaths which have mounted in Afghanistan has brought back the realities of war.
Politicians are now referring to our troops outside of November 11th. The concerns have led to bitter debates over the role of troops in Afghanistan. As well there is a slowly growing discussion of the misuse and abuse our soldiers face. The government for the first time in twenty years are beginning to invest in the military. Sometimes badly and with no thought to what they are doing but they are slowly changing the lives of many.
Too often in Canada we have left to fall the torch passed to us by Canadian poet John McCrae in World War 1 when he wrote In Flanders Fields. He would die during the war of pneumonia but his message has lived on for nearly a century.
In remembering the sacrifice of our soldiers we often quote the phrase Lest We Forget, however, often we do forget.
My point here today is that giving our Armed Forces nothing to work with creates nothing good. We are the second largest country in the world. It is important that we defend ourselves and act more like a part of the free world rather than freeloaders. To do that we must continue to renew the faith with our soldiers.
Given that let us remember they are not just a tool for us to use. We should treasure our soldiers and not misuse them in places where they will be sacrificed for cheap reasons. Afghanistan needs to mean something, otherwise we will have wasted much for little.
To do that we should push our allies for meaningful contributions and continue to insist those who went into Afghanistan must not allow others to do the heavy lifting for them. Part of the reason others want Canada to stay past 2011 is because they are unwilling to do the hard things needed.
Part of the faith we have with our service men and women is for politicians to not just pay lip service to their defence of these troops. Thinking about how often our veterans continue to struggle to get the basic necessities because our government forgot about them. Let us not do that any more, let us not break faith anymore.
In Flanders, Vimy, Dieppe, Juno Beach, Kapyong, Medak and Panjwaii Canadian troops have entered the line of fire. We should recognize each of these places for their importance to our troops and not avoid mention because it is seen as jingoism. Our military history is significant to the country and should be honoured more than just on Remembrance Day, lest we really do finally forget.
Lest We Forget – Stepping Up
Lest We Forget – Forging a Nation