Letters to the editor for the week of November 14th 

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Lest we forget

I read your Nov. 7 Opening Remarks entitled "Is Remembrance Day still meaningful?" As a veteran (Vietnam 1968 and 1969 U.S.M.C. infantry), I was appreciative of the issues you raised, particularly how the current Conservatives government of Canada has seemingly forgotten, minimized and/or marginalized those who have served all of us as a nation and as a people.

It is clear that many of our veterans have suffered legitimate physical and/or psychological disabilities, many of which will be suffered lifelong. It is also sad to hear that a number of veterans have recently come forward in stress because they were discharged from service months prior to becoming qualified for a pension.

Likely, there are many more who have accepted their fate in silence. 

You conclude your article by stating, "On November 11, and every day, let's hope our government remembers that Remembrance Day is still meaningful... to many people." Canadians should not have to "hope" that our politicians remember.

On Nov. 11, each politician will likely be front and centre at their local cenotaphs in front of veterans and voters who elected them. Each official will likely look genuinely sad and humble when they bend down and lay a wreath in remembrance. Perhaps they should ask themselves if this is just a photo-op type situation, or if they are truly doing it in honour of those who have died and those who have served their country and have suffered?

If the latter, they should be remembering every day, as you suggest, and ensure that our veterans truly are remembered, respected and given the necessary help from the Canadian people, so they may live out their lives in the dignity they deserve.

I think something can be gleaned from Canadian Lt. Col John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields. Without trying to be critical, I feel compelled to point out that you have made a factual mistake regarding perhaps one of the most well-known and often-cited poems amongst the peoples of the western world. While not a fundamental mistake, it was not written after World War I (1914-1918) as you have stated. 

Lt. Col. John McCrae was the medical officer in charge of a forward field hospital near the front lines of the Western Front on the fields of Flanders in the Flemish part of Belgium where some of the greatest battles and losses occurred for many armies, including the Canadians. On May 3, 1915, McCrae presided over the funeral services of his former medical student, and then friend and fellow doctor, Lt. Alexis Helmer, who was killed in action, during the Second Battle of Ypres. It was while McCrae was sitting on the tailgate of a field ambulance near the front-line trenches, in bleak surroundings and with a heavy heart that he was inspired to, and did write, "In Flanders Fields" that day. The poem was first officially published later that year. Sadly, McCrae died of pneumonia while still serving overseas on Jan.28, 1918.

In the context of your article perhaps McCrae's poem is still meaningful. The torch has been passed to each of us — to hold high. We have a moral responsibility to do so. If we break faith by simply doing nothing, we will not have honoured those who sacrificed for us even if we all wear poppies once a year.

As such, we must not just "hope our government remembers." McCrae challenges us to stand up for our veterans and their families.

If three recently disgraced senators are entitled to have their full medical benefits continued and their accumulation of pensions continue, surely our men and women who have served and sacrificed with honours and who now suffer, should be given their proper respect and be treated fairly for as long as they live and are buried.

Everyone who in deed does nothing brings shame to themselves and all Canadians.

Dana Urban


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