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Remembering to forget 

Editor’s Note: Matt Stickland has been in the military for 10 years and deployed to Libya in 2011 on HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN.  


On November 11, as a country we will gather and remember the sacrifices of our soldiers.  

Wreaths will be laid, Taps will be played, and in the moment of silence we can reflect on how what we are doing is forgetting the reason for the day.  

The reason Remembrance Day happens is so that the country can honour, respect or remember the men and women who have fought and died for this country. The ceremonies are always sincere, with members of the military on post in the shadow of a cenotaph. The crowd in attendance will all be wearing poppies.  

After the ceremony the crowd will often approach veterans or people in the military and thank them for their service. Everyone will go home thinking that they have done their part in remembering the country’s soldiers. Somewhere in the process we have forgotten the reason for the day.  

There is a stillness at the end of a war.  

In the next breath the world will shout “never again,” into that void. To prevent it from happening again, we hoped that it would be enough to remember the toll war extracted from our soldiers.  

In reality we have been allowed to forget why they were asked to pay.  

With the remembrance and glorification of the uniform and sacrifice we have not remembered what lead to war. We have forgotten why soldiers ended up on foreign battlefields. We have forgotten about the dangers of nationalism, fascism, and militarism.  

In the same period of time things have changed and enemies have become less defined than Germans with small mustaches. At that time, it may have been appropriate to thank veterans personally for their service. It may be harder for people to feel like they should be thanked for what they did in in West Asia.  

This combines into a perfect maelstrom of circumstance surrounding the day of remembrance.  

One of the by-products of the evolution of remembrance is that we have started to glorify the military; people will dress up in uniform and try pretend to be in the military. To bask in the appreciation of the country.  

Many of the men and women within the Canadian forces who have deployed on behalf of Canada are less concerned with recognition for deeds – they are more concerned with receiving the proper care and benefits upon their return.  

The downfall of remembrance day is that we have forgotten the reason for it. In the process our soldiers have turned into symbols.

Symbols of Canada.  

Symbols of sacrifice.  

Symbols of freedom.  

It has become easy to forget that the people in our military are humans.  

Instead of thanking people for their service this remembrance day, just make normal small talk, like you would asking anyone about their job.  

Remember that the uniform is the symbol. Not the people in them.  

Remember the reasons why Canada has gone to war in the first place, not who they sent. Remember, and prevent it from happening again.  

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