It’s that time of year again, when we look around and notice poppies wherever we go. We often think of a Veteran as an older gentleman who fought decades ago in a foreign war. While this particular analogy is true, they’re not the only Veterans. Veteran’s Affairs Canada considers anyone who releases with an honourable discharge and successfully completed basic training to be a Veteran.
Canada as a nation has been in the forefront of peace keeping operations, the war on terror, and political uprisings over the past number of decades. Most recently we supported NATO missions in Afghanistan as a response to 9/11, and Libya and other Middle Eastern nations during the Arab Spring. To compliment the older gentleman, we now see young women and men, many their 20’s who fit the definition of Veteran.
I’m a proud Veteran, having served as a Marine Systems Engineering Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) for 14 years. I served in Afghanistan and the coast of Libya before my 30th birthday. Both deployments came as a surprise, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to serve. It’s given me a different perspective on many aspects of life and the word around us.
As an officer in the RCN I never thought I’d be deployed to a land-locked country like Afghanistan. This became a reality in the summer of 2009 when I was called up to my Commander’s office and told I would be deploying. I was a unit replacement for a colleague who was screened out. With three weeks of training under my belt, I was off to Kandahar for my six month deployment, not knowing what my job would be. I ended up working as the Interpreter Coordinator for Regional Command (South), where I would manage the Interpreter resources that we had.
For anyone who has deployed to Afghanistan, they would be familiar with a quick stop at Camp Mirage in Dubai, before heading to the theatre of war. Soon after my arrival at Mirage I got my first bitter taste of war. At 3 a.m., on the Mirage tarmac, dozens of us fell in and somberly reflected as Corporal Jonathan Joseph Sylvain Couturier (age 23) was marched into an empty cargo plane for his lonely journey home. Many people from various countries paid the supreme sacrifice during my deployment. Including 10 Canadian soldiers — young men and women who sadly left their young families behind.
The moment of silence during a Remembrance Day ceremony means different things to different people. I used to think about my Grandfather Archelaus King, who served with the Royal Navy during WWI. These days I think about those who lost their life while I was deployed; those who came back in body, but never quite returned the same person.
Remembrance Day is a sign of respect for their fight for freedom, peace, and prosperity. I encourage everyone to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony and support the Poppy Fund, as all proceeds aid Veterans and their families. Lest We Forget.
Neil King, Lib.
MHA for Bonavista