In 2014, my wife was working for the Canadian Psychological Association with their offices in downtown Ottawa. One day they had a bunch of meetings in Chateau Laurier adjacent to Parliament Hill; something which wasn’t uncommon in the slightest.
She left her office, walked the few blocks up to Chateau Laurier, past the Canadian National War Memorial and the soldiers on guard and started attending the meetings.
It wasn’t very long before the building was complete chaos, on lockdown, with heavily armed police everywhere.
Even where I was working, more than a 10 km drive, all the government offices next to us had gone on lockdown.
One of the soldiers she’d walked past that morning was Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was fatally shot that day.
For us, this is the closest we’ve been to this type of thing; luckily in Canada, it’s quite uncommon largely in thanks to soldiers.
In my personal experience, there are noticeably fewer veterans now than even five years ago which is somewhat backed up by the numbers; Veterans Affairs Canada served 192,597 veterans and survivors in 2016-2017 compared to 210,076 in 2012-2013 (I didn’t manage to find the total number of veterans by year but for 2017 the veteran population is estimated at 600,300).
Furthermore, veterans from the most recognizable conflicts such as the Second World War are becoming older (an average age of 92) making them less visible to some extent.
Every year, around Remembrance Day, I get a little sad because we are slowly losing their incredibly valuable perspectives, the lessons that can be learned from this group of veterans and the opportunity for our young people to really connect with what it means to be part of wars of that scale.
When I was a little boy, I struggled to connect with what it really meant to be a veteran or to serve. Growing up in the Netherlands, there was obviously a lot of emphasis on appreciating what soldiers had done and even in my small town, there were soldier graves in the graveyards but simultaneously in the safety of the modern world, it all seemed incredibly far removed.
For me, having listened to veterans through various Remembrance Day projects and the 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill are personal reminders of not only the type of situations soldiers have to deal with and the consequences of their service but also why we should appreciate the safety and peace afforded to us by their service.