On my Facebook, I’ve liked a group called Stolen Valor. They are a group of past and present military members as well as civilians whose mission is to call our posers within their community. Though mainly Americans are called out, it’s no surprising there are people who have to guts to steal someone’s glory. As a Canadian, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone pose as a Canadian soldier and hopefully I will never see them appear. However something disturbs me deep down that is the act of loose debris and equipment on the monument. Littering as all of us would call it, I’m not going to get fancy; it bugs me even for a nation noted for its efforts for keeping the peace.
Reality of the last 100 years and prior, Canada has a very distinguished military history. In our history books (at least at my high school), teach our much about Canada’s sociological and economic history. From the Vikings to the fur trade, from the footholds in the south and west to domestic terrorism in the 60’s. Surely in our books, they cover the main battles and casualty count for all wars and skirmish in between; but out of the bulk of the entirety of Canada, it’s very taught as a subject matter to be taken into pride and consideration. To my generation, wars like the War in 1812 and the World Wars are known as words but not the deeds. Famous battles but not the soldiers who fought within them. Now 70+ years onward, all the monuments have been built and commemorated; even the Afghanistan War has seen the same treatment in stone and metal. The problem is not we have not done enough to remember the soldiers and veterans, but the effort to remember them; though not two independent ideas, but concurrent.
The recent offense that has me riled up is downtown in my hometown. It started with a man and a monument dedicated to the World Wars and Korea. To describe the monument, I would say it’s a 20-foot monument surround by a knee high metal chain fence much like those airport tape fences. The fence does mark where you can tread and where you cannot. I was there hanging out as I always do (I’m trying to be cool, it’s not very effective), then there is this man with a briefcase. At first, seems innocuous; then it gets
better worse. He puts down his leather briefcase down inside of the fence; yes, he reached over and left something on the interior boundary. At first I was angry, what he did made me even furious. After he leaned over and pulled something out of the briefcase, pamphlets. Then he turned around to the passing horde and started to preach religion. That was strike two because I have a peeve about people panhandling religion and trying to push religion onto others through loose logic. In Canada under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, he is indeed allowed to speak his mind. I’ll give him that, however I feel offended by his briefcase leaning against part of the memorial. To me, it was equivalent to to sitting on a tombstone of someone you don’t really know. In the moment, I wanted to approach and confront him. However from what he is preaching, I wouldn’t think my logic would approach him the way it should unless I mentioned Jesus and God; I bit my tongue. Last that week however, it was inexcusable.
I had a walk past of the monument to run some errands, midday where the streets were crowded compared to an evening weekend. As I looked over, the man there was gone; however something appalled me. All over the front of the stone monument over the fence, there was trash everywhere. Fountain soda cups, hot dog trays, napkins and all the fast food debris was all along. What really disturbed me was the bystanders that walked passed as I stood there. They neither reacted to the garbage nor showed any physical acknowledgement to the fact. I am speechless that these people just don’t care about the men and women who died in defence of this country. It’s almost shows the priority of the world now; pennies before pride. It makes me think how well do we really know our soldiers, then and now. When I was in high school, I asked that question and I went out there to seek the answers because I wanted to know more about this peacekeeping nation of mine.
In war and peace, the Canadian military does a lot with itself and other nations. I’ve read Canadians are as strong willed and fierce when it comes to operations overseas and domestic. Though the government does downplay our contributions, there are a lot of noteworthy contributions; military or humanitarian. When not constrained on what you learn, you learn the interesting things about a country. Definitely having an open mind you realize the neighbour next door can have just as an interesting past as yours. Which brings me back to the guy and the people in front of this memorial.
Perhaps our culture differs to much like the Americans. For sure, we don’t boast about our military and we focus on economics on the world stage. However you want to see it, society relies on a military and the military reflects the identity of its people to the rest of the world. Much like the world, we should appreciate our efforts regardless of our far ago and recent those contributions may be.