In my lifetime, Remembrance Day has been a day on the calendar to don a poppy. A day to reflect, celebrate, grieve and remember the contributions of those who serve in Canada’s armed forces, both current and past. Oddly, I have always looked forward to Remembrance Day each year. I appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate gratitude for the contributions of the men and women who served in past wars and peace-keeping missions. To be clear, I haven’t had the lived experience veterans have. Still, in this time, I see a link between the way Canadians came together in the past to unite against a military enemy and the shared purpose we need to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s no doubt we’re all sick of words like unprecedented and pivot. We’d give just about anything to go back to where we were a year ago, but barring any pandemic time travel discoveries, we have no choice but to continue to move through it. Between the pandemic and the economy, many veterans feel heightened effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and more civilians are suffering from anxiety and stress than I can recall in my lifetime. I have a big ask for many of us, for those who can shoulder it.
We have got to keep the conversation about mental health going.
We see increases in homeless issues in Canada’s cities. The recent data on the opioid crisis shows that COVID-19 has had a worsening effect on our already-bad problems related to addictions. These issues affect the population as a whole, but studies have shown that veterans have a higher rate of homelessness and addictions than those of us who haven’t served. We can take care of those around us in crisis and still pay tribute to the veterans who chose to put themselves in front of the storm. Taking care of others is a form of self-care and there are ways to do it within the health restrictions this pandemic has created.
- Talk to young people about the importance of commemorating veterans.
- Buy a poppy, wear a poppy.
- Donate to the Legion and/or the Military Museum, if funds allow. These places need dollars to educate future generations.
- Get involved with the organizations that support our veterans.
Every individual has born the weight of this pandemic, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. 2020 has felt like being dealt a bad poker hand, when you’ve got only a chip and a chair left. A virus with no vaccine, escalating unemployment rates and out of control government budgets can feel like the stakes are rising. It costs nothing to be kind to one another. To take the time to listen, to pull together and support each other.
We can treat ourselves with grace and patience for zero dollars, zero cents and extend that same grace and patience to others. We can take time to reach out to loved ones, let loved ones know when we need reaching out ourselves and be kind to strangers. It sounds simple, but it goes a long, long way. If more is required, we can work to connect people with the right resources.
This year, we must find new ways to honour those who serve and have served. It is essential to set new precedence when unprecedented times require it. Our country also got a whole new roster of heroes this year in our frontline workers. I know I speak for so many when I thank you for your service – past, present and into the future.