September 30, 2020

BY MARK FITZGERALD

With Remembrance Day behind us, I feel that it is relevant for people to know about the differences between the veterans of today and yesterday.

I am not here to discredit or show disrespect to our modern soldiers and veterans of Afghanistan, or anything that they have experienced. However, I believe that today’s veterans and the older ones who served in the First and Second World Wars deserve different types of respect.

The war in Afghanistan and the First World War are so completely different in every way imaginable that it is very difficult for me to consider the veterans of these wars equals.

Removing the human aspect from it, which is the whole point of Remembrance Day, it is clear to see that these wars were fought at completely different times in history.

From 2002-2011, approximately 158 members of the Canadian Forces were killed serving in Afghanistan. In the First World War, at Vimy Ridge, approximately 3,500 Canadians lost their lives in only three days. It is true that there is a vast difference in the number of troops sent to these two wars, but this comparison is just for perspective.

Clearly these wars were fought at different times, and technology has played a huge role reducing casualties.

Arguably, First World War veterans experienced a more raw and soul-shattering war than younger veterans. That is not to say that our modern veterans have not experienced things that I probably don’t even want to know about. The point is to realize the differing levels of inhumane acts that these two groups have gone through, and then base how much, and what level of respect and thanks, they deserve.

I find it hard to show the exact same type of respect (not any less, just that same type) to these two very different veteran groups. How can I look a man in the eye who may have been stuck in a trench swimming with rats, dead bodies and feces, while having to urinate on a rag to hopefully filter out chlorine gas that was sent his way, and give him the same respect as another man who may have only seen car bombs.

Of course those are two vastly different comparisons, but it is because of what the veterans of the First World War went through that we don’t have weapons such as chlorine gas anymore.

It is very difficult to express the same type of respect for veterans of a war where they could kill people hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres away from a remote location, compared to a war where it was much more personal and raw.

My point is, we need people to realize that there is a huge difference between veterans of today and the veterans of the past. I believe we shouldn’t blindly group them all under one big title. Each veteran of each war has experienced and sacrificed vastly different things, and we need to take that into account, each and every time we remember what they have done for this country.

Otherwise, what’s the point?