I put on a soldier’s uniform when I was 13 and joined the British Columbia Regiment Cadet Corp., In Vancouver BC. We were taught some of the purposes for the cadet Corps are to promote Citizenship and Leadership. I was proud every time I got to put on my uniform. That was two years before I became a Canadian Citizen in 1977. Two years ago, in December 2012, I retired from the Regular Canadian Armed Forces; Serving with the Tank Squadron in Petawawa.
Today, as every year on this day, I attended the Remembrance Day Parade locally. As the parade ended, I stood there saddened and somewhat disgusted at the ceremonies. I reflected and wondered, for whom was this parade; There was more emphasis put on a few dignitaries, if you will, than on any fallen soldier or their families. The MOC called out the names of some local Government officials and the crowd waited in silence as each one walked up to the cenotaph with a wreath. Why didn’t we instead take the time to read off the names of the Service men and women from our community, who were killed in Service? Are we not gathered this day to remember their service and sacrifice?
The families of the fallen soldiers who wished to lay wreaths were afforded the opportunity to do so as somewhat of a consolation prize. They were allowed to do this AFTER the parade was dismissed as the majority of the crowd were leaving. No pipes, no drums, just the chatter of hundreds of people as they went off their own ways. Whom was the Parade about?
We are located in a town that houses several Military Units, and a large number of soldiers, and this past year, a helicopter squadron was added. So I was expecting a Missing Man Formation fly by…none came. I thought surely a flight of Chinooks…none came. This past week I noticed our jets flying overhead as part of the ongoing training. Perhaps they’ll have the F-18 do a fly past…None came. We have an artillery unit on base, all week we heard heavy artillery fire during an exercise, maybe a Gun salute….None came.
Petawawa has lost many soldiers in the recent past; none of their names were mentioned. Instead the MOC announced that we were here to remember Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent. Please I wish not to offend the family of either one of these Soldiers and certainly I grieve that they were killed. They are by NO MEASURE, heroes by the definition we see in the dictionary. [Webster’s Definition- Hero: (feminine Heroine) a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b: an illustrious warrior c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities. d: one who shows great courage]. I do not understand why so many Canadians have jumped on this band wagon. Cpl. Cirillo happened to be standing on the right of the cenotaph; Cpl. Stevenson was standing on the Left; was Cpl. Stevenson any less a soldier or hero because he didn’t get shot? There was a barrage of police officers who ran towards the gunfire in the parliament building chasing the killer; are they not heroes? Are their names not worth a mention? Did they not put the interests of others before their own? A few civilians ran to the aid of Cpl. Cirillo after they heard gunfire. These people risked their lives to run to the aid of a stranger. In this age of rampant diseases transferred by blood, these good Samaritans didn’t stop to don protective gear. Who is the Hero? The guy unknowingly standing in the line of fire or those purposely running to his side after the firing started? Cirillo and Vincent were victims.
What do we really know about Cpl. Cirillo’s service record? I saw no medals on his chest. What do we know about WO Vincent. Wasn’t he walking across the parking lot with another soldier? What of the other soldier; not dead, not a hero? By what definition are these men heroes?
I lost several comrades from my unit, in active duty. Their names were not remembered today, some of them lived a stone’s throw from where the ceremony was held. A good friend of mine, while on tour in Afghanistan, literally held together pieces of one of his friends after they hit an IED. Fernando risked his life to bring comfort to a dying comrade; they were in the same vehicle, who is the Hero? Another friend, who had chunks of human flesh and blood all over him from a suicide bomber, didn’t stop to clean himself up before running to support a comrade who bled out in his arms. Ted’s name is not remembered among heroes. Why, because he didn’t take a bullet? Still another friend was on foot patrol with another soldier a few paces ahead of him. Joe doesn’t understand why he had to watch his friend get blown up and eventually lose the use of both legs. Another old friend humbly recounted his horrific escapades during WWII; he defended our freedom in places I only know by name. Albert passed away in August this year at 90 and was buried after a small simple ceremony. He was a Hero. I’ve served with others, who have fought bled and lived, but are reliving the horrors with flashbacks. Of course some have returned stronger in mind and body because of what they experienced. Are they not Heroes?
Canada has a volunteer army, any soldier who puts on our uniform, knows for certain that their life may be required of them in service today, but we decided to serve anyway, this is also true of our police and first responders.
When you lift up people to hero status when they did no heroic action, you bring down my friends who died in hostile active service; you bring down those who went before me, and fought for my (OUR) freedom; You bring down those who fought and lived and went back to fight again so that you may be safe; You bring down those engaged in active duty today, standing on guard for thee.
After the shooting in Ottawa, thousands of dollars were spent by people for flowers and stuffed bears that were placed at the cenotaph. Would they not be better served if given to living veterans, the sick and wounded in hospitals, in the memory of the fallen? Why wait ‘til they are dead? The dead want nothing….Serve the Living Heroes.
My Name is Vijay, I was born on the 11th of November, but this is hardly about me.