A veteran’s request for respect, compassion and remembrance amid COVID-19

Nov. 11th is a day like no other and carries a lot of different meanings for everyone, depending on the history of each participant.

What mustn’t be lost is the respect due to those who have served — and continue to serve — in varying capacities throughout the conflicts around the world.

In both war and peace times, many have paid with their lives in service of their country — “ALL GAVE SOME, SOME GAVE ALL.”

This day is how we pay our respects to those who have served in those endeavours. It is also a time to pay homage to those who continue to bear the signs of what they have witnessed throughout their careers and continue to suffer the consequences of said service both physically and mentally.

It is not just the serviceperson who suffers through conflict. The families of those who chose to don the uniform suffer as well — often in silence and alone. We honour them as well, during this solemn occasion.

In Flanders Fields

I wonder if John McCrae could envision that his poem In Flanders Fields would go on to become the standard for remembrance many years after the last gun was fired, and silence once again reclaimed the field.

Did he hope that this would be the last battle to be fought with no more suffering or conflicts? His words have often followed me throughout my 34 years of service.   

‘Veterans and their families have come to see the worst and the best that mankind has to offer,’ says Andrew Macleod, who served 34 years in the Canadian Forces. (Submitted by Andrew Macleod)

The dictionary defines a veteran as a person who has served in the military of their country. It’s a rather nondescript term for those who have chosen to put the weight of the world on their shoulders, in an attempt to serve and make a difference in the world.

This day is to commemorate that calling and those that who have taken up the challenge to serve.

There is still very much the need to pay one’s respects​​​​​​.– Andrew Macleod

Every year there are fewer and fewer of the old guard who fought in the First World War and Second World War, and Korea. There are however, unfortunately, many new veterans who have served in many war-torn conflicts such as Bosnia, Somalia and the Middle East.

Canada has always been in the forefront of trying to end these types of conflicts and lead the way with its peacekeeping missions throughout the world. Even with these small-scale events, lives and families have been irrevocably changed. 

Peacekeepers to peacemakers

Canada’s military role in the world has changed from one of peacekeepers to that of peacemakers, but it still requires the fortitude of its men and women in uniform to leave the safety and comfort of home and loved ones and answer the call of John McCrae. Veterans and their families have come to see the worst and the best that mankind has to offer.

COVID-19 has made this year’s services much more challenging — but it is one that still must be observed.

Whether it is virtually or in small groups, there is still very much the need to pay one’s respects to those who have fallen and to those who still bear the scars.

So, take the time to lay a wreath or a poppy on the gravesite or memorial in your neighborhood as a sign of respect.

When you come across a veteran, please take the time to thank them for their service to this country and the world.

This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.