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  • Fardous Hosseiny

Remembrance Day 2022 – We do remember them

Remembrance Day truly is a day of memorial — a way we as Canadians join the citizens of other Commonwealth countries to recognize those who have served our nation, those who fought and those died. In Canada alone, we have lost more than 100,000 brave soldiers across conflicts throughout our country’s history. These span from the Boer War, to the First World War to service in Afghanistan, and also include those recently lost in training.

Fardous Hosseiny, President and Chief Executive Officer, Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families

Many of those who did return home to Canada returned fundamentally changed, often bearing both physical and emotional wounds because of the courage of their service. We cannot ignore the reality of those we have lost long after their time in the zone of conflict where these injuries originated.

We are a young country, but we’ve contributed to global freedom in a significant way.

I think of a story I heard last year when we, at the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, were going through a process of deep engagement with Veterans and Families to develop our five-year strategic plan. A Veteran with more than 40 years of service, retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer, spoke about a memory he had of leading his troops during Op Harmony in 1993 in the region of the Medak Pocket. In some of the most difficult fighting in the former Yugoslavia, where Canadians were part of the engagement, prior to setting off to provide support to those engaged, he met with his section and asked them whether they had any trepidations about going into this operation. He asked if they were scared, prepared to provide words of encouragement. Instead, one soldier replied, “I’m not scared of dying. I am more scared that if anything were to happen, our sacrifice won’t be remembered or understood. I’m scared for my family back home should I die. Will they be looked after? But no, I’m not scared of dying.”

I didn’t think to ask if this young soldier did indeed survive. There were Canadians lost in the heavy fighting. But this story stays with me because it speaks volumes about many things that are part of the experience of service that those of us who haven’t borne arms cannot comprehend. We simply cannot fully understand what we have not experienced. It speaks to me of the extraordinary courage of those who selflessly stepped up and joined our military — be that land, sea, air, full-time or reservist. It speaks to the values they hold, and the willingness to bear arms to defend those values. The kind of person who would risk the loss of their own life in pursuit of preserving a dream of freedom that others might enjoy. And, finally it speaks to me of the role of the family when those they love pay the ultimate price for our freedom. How do we honour their sacrifice?

There are thousands of quiet acts of courage that never were recorded in the annals of history, but they are stored in the memories of those who led them, who walked beside them and who have shared the experience of service. On Remembrance Day, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, these are the individuals we honour.

The poppy is an enduring symbol of remembrance and we wear it specifically to remember those who gave their lives in battle. These are the flowers that grew on the battlefields of Europe after the end of the First World War, which is when Remembrance Day originated. We lay wreaths at cenotaphs as other ways to honour the fallen — to take the time to remember them and what their sacrifice has truly meant, both to us personally and to the freedoms we enjoy as Canadians.

It is that freedom which should call us to mindfully remember those who serve. Beyond simply a day or week set aside each year, we should continue to honour their sacrifices by also remembering the service of their friends and comrades, the more than 600,000 Veterans living today in Canada and the loved ones who have made their own sacrifices at home. In so doing, we are honouring the quiet contemplations of the brave facing the uncertain on the battlefield.

If I were able to speak to that young soldier today, it is my hope that he would see in the work of the Atlas Institute that we have not forgotten him, his sacrifice and that of his comrades, and we have not forgotten their families. Indeed, we do remember.

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