Why we must remember

This Nov. 11 we once again paused to remember our men and women in uniform who have layed down their lives for our freedom and human rights. We took the traditional two minutes of silence to reflect on these heroes, as well as those who serve at this very moment in Afghanistan and around the world keeping us safe.

All too often we forget that we owe everything we have to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many of those who died were our age or even younger when they lost their lives. In our day to day lives it is easy to imagine that our lives and the blessings we enjoy in Canada are automatic or normal. We must remember that the way we live was purchased at a terrible cost, a price paid with the blood of heroes.

The unfortunate reality that we face is that there are still people in our world who wish to end our way of life. There are still those who belong to backwards ideologies that hate our respect for human rights, the rights of women, and the rights of individuals to live as they choose. Pretending that there are not evil people who oppose Canada and our values does not make the threat go away. Understanding this reality is important, and it is another reason for us to be grateful for the bravery of the Canadian military throughout history.

At this very moment, Canadian soldiers are walking the sand swept streets of Afghanistan, and patrolling dangerous and desolate deserts. They face threats from an ideology that views women as objects without dignity, an ideology that views any lifestyle other than their own as wrong. They are far away from their families and loved ones, and every day their lives are at risk. What is most amazing, however, is that in this era of a volunteer army, the men and women who serve have chosen to risk their lives to defend us.
Those of us blessed enough to have been born in this country, and those blessed to have come here from other lands, are members of a rare and lucky group. As Canadians, we live in the most free, open and accepting country the world has ever known. We are treated with dignity, we enjoy the freedom to speak our minds, and we live by a strong set of moral truths and values, values that guide us towards respect for each other, respect for human rights, and respect for those who came before us and built our country.

Throughout the history of our country, evil leaders and ideologies have challenged our way of life, and each time it was necessary to confront those challenges in order to protect what matters most to us. Though we pray for peace, it is clear today that violence is still the choice of many and that we must be prepared to protect the values that we hold near and dear to our hearts.

Each of us face our own challenges and difficulties in life, and each of us could probably write up a list of complaints and problems in our lives that seem important. But let us remember that right now there are Canadians who must be on the lookout for a grenade, or RPG round, land mine or an IED. Underneath all of our problems is the comfort that comes from knowing we are safe. Our troops must live every moment without that comfort. They could have chosen to be at home with their families; they could have chosen to be in safe jobs. They could even have chosen to be university students like us, whose worst concern is an exam we haven’t studied enough for. Instead they have chosen something different. They have chosen to face danger so that we don’t have to. They have chosen the path of heroes, and that is why we must remember.

Spencer Fernando is the International Comment Coordinator for the Manitoban.