More initiatives like the Invictus Games are needed to offer purpose and strength to veterans
In the aftermath of any war, I believe nothing is more important than honouring the contributions and sacrifices made by the soldiers who fought in them, regardless of their age, gender or nationality.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele and the Battle of Vimy Ridge, as well as the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Dieppe. These historic battles transformed Canada into the country it is today. According to a public opinion survey by Historica Canada, 29 per cent of Canadians intended to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony this year. The results of this poll indicate a three-point increase compared to the attendance in 2016.
On Saturday, Nov. 11, thousands of people, both military and civilian, gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to honour the sacrifices of our country’s soldiers and veterans. According to Craig Oliver, the chief political commentator for CTV News, the crowds at Remembrance Day ceremonies 30 years ago were far smaller than they are today. Oliver attributed the growth over the years to the increasing number of young veterans.
“A new generation has learned to appreciate that sense of self-sacrifice that the military represents,” Oliver stated during the televised live coverage of the ceremony. “It’s great to see crowds growing the way they are, and it’s particularly great to see young people coming out, appreciating self-sacrifice, as young people do. More than my generation ever did.”
After returning home from a war zone, it is easier for younger veterans to appreciate the sacrifices of their contemporaries compared to veterans who are a few generations older, according to David O’Keefe, a history professor at Marianopolis College and a former member of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. This results in a higher turnout for military ceremonies like Remembrance Day, he added.
Unfortunately, regardless of this increased appreciation, I believe there are still many problems that hinder our veterans from enjoying a peaceful life. According to an article from The Globe and Mail, veterans still face a myriad of issues ranging from homelessness to trouble with pensions to mental illness. For example, O’Keefe said, even though there is a stronger medical understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this doesn’t mean the government or society has done enough to help veterans deal with this issue.
My conversation with O’Keefe showed me that society and the government in Canada are not putting enough importance on improving healthcare and pensions to help struggling veterans. Fortunately, noticeable efforts are slowly being made to help veterans adjust to post-military life in terms of their mental health and social interactions. One such initiative is the Invictus Games, an international multi-sport event for wounded and handicapped veterans and their associates, that was launched in 2014.
According to O’Keefe, the Invictus Games help make the return of wounded veterans to civilian society seamless and restore a sense of normalcy to their lives. According to the Toronto Star, adaptive sports like the Invictus Games are a new way to offer support to veterans and their families. Sports give veterans a purpose and mission again, and can help them improve their mental and physical health. “You are capable and still able,” O’Keefe said about this change in mentality for wounded soldiers. “You are differently abled, as opposed to disabled.”
Sporting events are also a chance for veterans to reforge a bond of camaraderie with their peers, and to use these bonds to inspire and educate others about their experience, according to the Toronto Star.
As times change, so does our inclination to honour the deeds and sacrifices of our veterans. Especially with the number of World War II soldiers dwindling with every passing year. Today, we must evolve beyond the idea of remembrance to enter a new age of appreciation for those who defend and protect our nation.
Graphic by Zeze Le Lin