Come November each year, most of us turn our thoughts to those who gave their lives in the defence of Democracy and the fight against tyranny and oppression.
Many of us will choose to wear a Red poppy, some a White one. I have no issue with either but I choose to wear a red one. The white poppy is the choice of pacifists but the message is the same. We honour the memory of those who served and died and we pray that the last war will be the last war, ever.
For those who feel that the one colour or the other is an affront, maybe we should recall that these people died so that others could have their own beliefs.
While we honour those that died by wearing a poppy, we also show our respect to all those who served. Some enlisted to fight the Kaiser, others to fight against Hitler and his allies, some chose to enlist during peace. They may have had no intention of going to war, but when war came, they went too.
We have lost the last of our veterans of the Great War. Our veterans from WWII are aged and their numbers grow fewer each year.
These people have earned our respect, as have the veterans who served in places such as Korea, those that served as Blue Berets in many countries around the world, and to those who served in more recent conflicts, such as Afghanistan.
You have earned my respect, and I honour the memory of your comrades that went to these places but never returned.
To those that served during peace time, You have my respect as well. You were willing to stand guard and prepared to go to where ever our government felt you were needed.
This is why I find it unconscionable that our government finds it necessary to show an incredible lack of respect to those who have served.
This morning the radio reported that Windsor Council voted unanimously to request that the government rescind the decision to close the Windsor Veterans Affairs Office. Among those who use the services of this office are WWII veterans who will no longer be able to visit a local office when they need to. The nearest office will be in London, a long trip for someone in their 80s which will likely require someone to drive them there.
The news has also been reporting on injured members of our Canadian Military who are being discharged months before qualifying for their pensions. This number includes a Member of the Services from London Ontario who lost his legs in Afghanistan as well as others who suffer from various bodily injuries or lost limbs or from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. You are no longer welcome in the Military.
And the government has decided to appeal a Court ruling that allows our injured veterans to sue the government to obtain a disability pension rather than the lump sum payment that our government has inflicted on them.
Why? Because the government of Stephen Harper feels it is a better use of tax money to close these offices, to discharge these soldiers, and to give lump sums to injured veterans than to treat them with the respect that they have earned. They have been reduced to numbers on a piece of ledger paper in Jim Flaherty’s office, these people are just too expensive to deal with otherwise.
Why do I care? Just like Stephen Harper, I am an accidental Canadian. I am a Canadian simply because my mother gave birth to me here just like Stephen’s mother did for him. My parents however are not accidental Canadians like Stephen’s parents are. My parents are (or in my Mother’s case was) Canadian by choice. They were both born in a foreign country and chose to immigrate to Canada.
My parents both grew up under Nazi occupation. WWII was not something seen in the theatre or read about in the papers, it was part of their lives. While they were spared the horror of war in their streets, they still lived under the vigilance of their Nazi overseers.
My Mother once told me that in the end days of the war, when the Allied Forces were taking control of former Nazi held territory they hoped to see General Montgomery. They wanted to thank the British for fighting in their war from the beginning. She would have been just as happy to see Canadians, we flew the Union Jack at that time, our Forces were in the war from the beginning as well. Our Forces would have easily passed as British in her eyes back then.
This is part of the reason that I respect those that choose to enlist.
This is part of the reason I honour those who give the ultimate sacrifice.
I owe these people a debt of gratitude.
Stephen Harper on the other hand sees these people as an expense, a cost to be controlled or cut. Just another item on the long list of accounts payable. Our Armed Forces are a wonderful backdrop for photo ops, but soldiers who are no longer able to fight are too expensive to keep. Pensions for injured vets and Veterans Offices are just too expensive to maintain.
A strange way to thank the people who chose to defend Canada don’t you think?
Each year I buy a poppy to show my gratitude. If it costs me a few dollars a year in income tax to keep offices open and allow the Member of Our Armed Forces to have proper pensions then so be it. But if you ask me, I’d rather my money be spent on our veterans than on TV commercials.