It seems like only last week we were holding a Remembrance Day service and gathering at the Legion to honour those before us who gave their lives in the ser-vice of our country. Yet, it has been a year and we are preparing once more to pay tribute to our fallen comrades.
Often we hear it said in praise that they sacrificed themselves for their country. Such is accepted as a truism that goes without remark. But it is not always true. Indeed there are those whose motives for service are purely patriotic, particularly in time of great peril, but there are many other reasons, too, that people serve.
From my own experience I have known those who serve because serving is a steady job. They may dress it up in patriotism, but economics is the real reason. And, there are those who serve for adventure. I have known a number in my life. Tagging patriotism on to adventurism is a convenient extra, but it is for the adventure that they serve. Then there are those who serve because of their coun-try, which is not the same as for it. They would certainly rather not be there, but circumstances dictate differently. Their patriotism is one of acceptance rather than of choice.
So, what is the point? The point is that many people sacrifice themselves, but not always for their country as our popular myth would have it. Of course this does not mean that their sacrifice was not beneficial to our society or that we should not be appreciative of it. We should, and it is fitting that we remember. It is too bad that often we only remember once a year, and often fail to tie those remembrances to the present and future, setting ourselves up for many more occasions for which memorial services will surely be in order.
As I write, our neighbour to the south is building up a number of reasons to remember as their ill conceived conquest of Iraq keeps piling up the bodies. And whose memory was it that failed when many of their armed forces were sent to war without the best bulletproof vests in their supply system? One can argue that the war itself is a failure of memory of what the country stands for since it is questionable that this war has anything to do with defense. But regardless of that issue, those who risk their lives in the service of their country deserve the best protection possible when sent into harm’s way. Perhaps those candidates for fu-ture remembrances would be better served by the country that praises them for sacrifices if the people responsible for their welfare remembered a whole lot more before they are sacrificed.
Closer to home we have our own issues with service. Anyone who pays any attention at all to the news knows that for ages our helicopter fleet has been noted as much for its down time and failings as for its flying. Why in a country as rich as ours do we send our armed forces into the air in flying rattle traps? And what about the stories that we have heard about service members and their spouses qualifying for welfare because military pay was not enough to support their families? Perhaps our remembrance of them can start early by paying them enough for their service to provide a decent life for their dependents.
The latest news tells us that far from remembering the difficulties facing our service men and women and their families, our leaders instead choose to re-member that base housing is not competitive with the civilian market. In order to remedy this situation the rent for base housing has just been increased up to $100 per month. For some this more than eats up the pay raise that they re-ceived this year. Should we find comfort in the fact that the welfare of our mili-tary is being dictated not by their service and their sacrifices, but by the market?
Remembrance Day is important to me, as it is to many of us. But one day a year and only about those who have gone before is not enough. I would ask everyone as they remember on November 11 to stop and think about the pre-sent and the future too, and about the welfare of those who stand ready to join the lists of the remembered, regardless of what their reason is.