Viewpoints: Make Nov. 11 meaningful
Today, as I write this article, I remember the Canadian soldiers who bravely fought over 70 years ago in the Korean War, specifically the Battle of Hill 355. By the morning of Oct. 24, 1952, soldiers of the Royal Canadian Regiment reoccupied positions previously seized by the Chinese army. The Canadian sacrifice was 18 killed, 25 wounded and 14 taken prisoner. I will remember them for their ultimate sacrifice. They gave their lives to maintain freedom for those who could not defend themselves.
On Nov. 6, 1919, King George V proclaimed that all countries who were members of the Commonwealth would mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month with two minutes of silence to remember the fallen. This day would later become known as Remembrance Day in Canada. In Alberta, the Remembrance Day Act outlines the requirements for schools to observe two minutes of silence from 11:00 a.m. to 11:02 a.m. during the last instructional day before Nov. 11.
So, how can teachers make Remembrance Day real and meaningful for students when the two world wars and even the Korean War are far removed from their lives? How can we as teachers make this day relevant to our students’ understanding of war without glorifying the destructive and tragic effects of war?
As a current serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces and as a teacher in Alberta, I believe that we must continue to help our youth learn about the heroes from our past and keep their memories alive. We all should cherish the courage and sacrifice of those who have served Canada proudly and made it the great country it is. Without them, what would our world and nation look like today?
One person who, to me, exemplified sacrifice was Lieutenant Bill Turner, my friend, former university classmate and army buddy. He helped others who needed our Canadian courage, compassion and generosity. Bill was killed in Gumbad, Afghanistan on April 22, 2006. He was serving as a civil–military co-operation officer, and his duties were focused on creating relationships with village elders, communities and civil organizations. As someone who knew Bill very well, I can tell you that he embodied kindness and compassion. During his time overseas, he helped many people. There was no glory in his death, but there was glory in how he served and made the world a better place. This is what students need to remember. I will remember Bill.
Help your students understand that the military is still relevant today. Unfortunately, world peace still seems to be a faraway accomplishment for humanity. With conflicts still raging in Ukraine, Haiti and throughout other places in the world, the Canadian Armed Forces must still ensure their readiness to respond and assist. In a world where conflict continues to grow, military service is more relevant than ever. We all have relatively safe lives in Canada with a vast amount of freedom and privilege that many humans in the world cannot experience. Canadians have a duty to help all citizens in the world; even though it can be dangerous, Canadian soldiers must be ready to assist.
As you plan your Remembrance Day activities in your classes, schools and communities, please involve your students in shaping why we must remember. Help them to understand that throughout time, no soldiers loved to go to war. War is terrifying, war leaves invisible scars and war takes away lives. Our soldiers have risked and continue to risk their lives to help others and to maintain our way of life. Please take the time to learn about heroes such as Lieutenant Turner, who served to help others. Remember our veterans of the past, present and future. They served and will serve for the benefit of all Canadians, and their stories and lives should be remembered. They never asked for much when they served. Two minutes of silence and recognition of their service is a small sacrifice compared to what many of them had to give up. When you thank a veteran or member of the Canadian Armed Forces for their service, you will also be thanking all who served before them.
As a member of the Canadian Army for more than 28 years, I would like to personally thank all educators for your commitment to recognizing the contributions of veterans and serving members of our military. Your sincere and considerate approach to teaching your students about the sacrifice of soldiers at home and away makes all of us proud to give our time to defend Canadian interests at home and abroad. Lest we forget. ❚
Lieutenant-Colonel Darrell Paquette is an assistant principal at Svend Hansen School in Edmonton. After more than 28 years with the Canadian Army, he continues to serve as an officer.
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