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Highest Debt of Gratitude

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Brad Field

Lest we forget. A line we hear every year as November 11 approaches. Has it become so commonplace to utter the words, we risk forgetting what they mean?

It should not be forgotten. Two world wars. Dozens of military and peacekeeping actions since the end of the Second World War. Countless Canadians injured and lost defending our country, and our freedoms, many before any of us were even a thought. Ongoing global conflict, with Canadian men and women continuing to serve to protect civilians and preserve basic human rights.

We still have far to go in supporting and celebrating our veterans. If we can find a silver lining, it’s that Calgarians lead the pack in supporting our vets. We are known for our philanthropic spirit, and our philanthropy surrounding veterans is no exception. There are several organizations (outside of those we support via the federal and provincial government) doing incredible work to provide assistance to the men and women who sacrifice so much for our quality of life.

Homes For Heroes is a made-in-Calgary solution for veterans experiencing homelessness. Dave Howard, the passion driving the organization, has established a small homes community that will provide a place to rest, counselling and other resources for military veterans. Calgary stalwarts ATCO and CP Rail have thrown their support behind this initiative as a bold show of support for Canadian vets.

For over a decade, the Field of Crosses has placed over 3,500 crosses along Memorial Drive to signify and honour the ultimate sacrifice. A sunrise ceremony from November 1-11 annually salutes those who have fallen.

For five years, Calgary business leaders have organized Breakfast on the Bridge to raise money to help local veterans suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress after returning to civilian life. Those dollars go directly to the Calgary Military Family Resource Centre, the Military Museums of Calgary and the Mount Royal University scholarship program for military families.

Finally, Calgary’s legions are making innovative moves to continue the legacy of supports and advocacy, as well as offering a place for veterans to gather socially.

This list isn’t exhaustive. There are many more organizations out there doing the best work possible to support and celebrate our military veterans. As Calgarians, as Canadians, there is still much more we can do.

How can we begin that work in our own homes?

  • We can start by talking to young people about why we remember. Impart the sacrifice and legacy left by those who have served on to the next generations.
  • Wear a poppy. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s meaningful.
  • Visit your local military museum, Calgary has one of the best in the nation.
  • Participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies.
  • Encourage school board representatives and teachers to spend time educating kids on the importance of Remembrance Day and support for our veterans.
  • Get involved with the organizations that support our veterans.

The further we get away from the world wars, the easier it is to take freedom for granted. To the men and women who fought then and to those who continue to risk their lives for global accord, we owe our highest debt of gratitude. We have the fortune of freedom and the honour of being Canadian. It is for that fortune and honour, the legacies of our veterans must live on. Their stories must not be lost to time, lest we forget.

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