Remembering the loyalty and sacrifice of Unknown Soldiers
by Agnes Chung
From the beaches of Normandy to the Borneo jungles and craggy Korean peninsula, some 1.7 million Canadians were called upon to defend global peace and freedom during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. They dedicated and risked their lives, knowing they might not live to see their families again, for a cause that was greater than their own.
Since Confederation, more than 118,000 uniformed Canadians have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation, cites Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) website. The names are inscribed in the seven Books of Remembrance found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial list.
Following the horrific wars, Canada changed its defense policy to play a lead role in global peacekeeping missions. Over the past 60 years, more than 125,000 Canadian Armed Forces members have served in international peace missions to more than 35 countries, according to VAC.
Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
In 2000, the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was inaugurated. The tomb, fronting the National War Memorial in Ottawa, was created to pay tribute to fallen Canadians who sacrificed their lives for peace and freedom. The Unknown Soldier embodies all Canadians, be it members of the navy, army, air force or merchant marine who died or may die in conflicts past, present, and future. While we may not know their names, we honour their sacrifices and achievements.
No Unknown Soldier in God’s Kingdom
This brings to mind the good news that in God’s kingdom, there are no unknown soldiers, even though one may be “unknown” on earth. The Lord knows those who are his (2 Timothy 2:19). And in John 10:14, Jesus affirmed, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…”
The message is poignantly illustrated in the beautiful song lyrics, No Unknown Soldiers written by Gloria Gaither and sung by Ernie Haase. The lyrics say, “God knows them by name, his army cannot march beyond his care, their blood type has established their royal identity… no wounded left to die along the way, no missing in the action…He never wondered where we are, He has our DNA…”
Remembrance Day – The Cherished and the Living
The greatest work in God’s kingdom is undertaken by unknown Christian soldiers. The church thrives with those who work not for recognition, but in achieving God’s purpose.
As we approach Remembrance Day, we are reminded of the brave men and women who serve our country, veterans of the two World Wars and Korea, and the peacekeeping Canadian Armed Forces. Let us not forget, of those who made it home, many are broken in mind and body, and need our care.
How You Can Honour and Support Veterans?
Command Service Officer for the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon, Joseph Waugh advises folks to wear a poppy, both in memoriam and also to bring needed support and awareness to the causes of veterans. “Besides being a visual reminder to people that you support the veterans, the money donated to the poppy fund goes to support veteran programming and also provides for those in financial need,” shares Waugh.
A veteran himself, Waugh spent eight years in the Royal Westminster Regiment, which included deployment to Afghanistan as part of 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
“The Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon offers many opportunities for the public to honour and help veterans,” says Waugh. “The highly successful Veterans Transition Program essentially provides guided group therapy for veterans who return from overseas or may have a hard time transitioning back to civilian life when they leave the military.
The program is the only one of its kind in Canada, where former Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel can receive free help for trauma-related stress, career transitions and family relationships. “The poppy fund also goes to acquire trained service dogs to help veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), so they can feel safe to leave their home,” explains Waugh. PTSD symptoms include fear of crowds, apprehension, intense distress, and vivid nightmares.
He adds there are several other veteran support organisations including the Army, Navy & Air Force Veteran, VETS Canada, and Honour House in B.C. His organisation is the largest, with a membership of nearly 55,000. In his job, Waugh often collaborates with these different organisations in order to assist individual veterans and also veterans at large.
Operated by volunteers, VETS Canada’s commitment is to help homeless and at-risk veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Honour House Society located in New Westminster provides a refuge for veterans and their families to stay while receiving medical treatment in Metro Vancouver. All these organizations need financial and volunteer support during Remembrance Day, and throughout the year. The sacrifices Canadians made in protecting our nation and world peace and freedom are deserving of our highest honour and gratitude.