Since the end of the Korean conflict some 57 years ago, many of us have grown up hearing or repeating the phrase "...how few Canadians have known or experienced war." Sadly, as the years of our participation in Afghanistan roll on and the number of Canadian military deaths increase, the precept that most Canadians don't know or remember war holds less currency.
In Afghanistan, where Canadian forces serve alongside 15 coalition nations and Afghan army troops, the sacrifice continues, the casualties mount and the struggle remains. Since Canadians first entered the Afghan theatre in 2002, 152 forces members have been killed with 19 members having tragically fallen.
Since the beginning of WWI in August 1914, more than 116,000 Canadians have been lost in war and peacekeeping - a number too great to fully comprehend.
This November, as Remembrance Day approaches, Canadians struggle in debate over our continuing role and "exit strategy" for Afghanistan; the purpose of it all and the sacrifice. There can be said to exist a question as to the global perspective of our participation and a very Canadian angst persists.
Still, this debate, this question which moves within the Canadian politic at its own pace - ebbing and flowing as the years of conflict course on - abates, if only for a brief time, in early November.
Canadians, regardless of their geographic location; their political, religious or historic foundation, seem united in a shared grief, a shared sorrow and a shared remembrance as we consider the sacrifice in wars of our distant past and the losses of an anguished today.
The sacrifice by Canadian soldiers, sailors, airmen and merchant mariners in WW I, WW II, the Korean Conflict and peacekeeping missions are more deeply burned into our collective souls as we watch television, read online or turn the pages of our newspapers and learn of the death of a young Canadian in Afghanistan - so distant from home and family.
Canadians exhibit a shared, heavy heart, as even from across the country we reach out to the families of those killed as they say their final farewell. As the processions slowly make their way down the newly christened "Highway of Heroes," thousands of Canadians spontaneously gather to offer personal and collective honours. Those Canadians who gather to pay this silent homage, in front of a flickering TV or along a lonely highway in southern Ontario, feel we are there. From a distance we feel a loss, we feel a pain - we pause and we remember.
This November 11 th . the Whistler community will gather at the Cenotaph to pause, reflect and remember the sacrifice of so many young Canadians who fought not for glory, reward or the expansion of Canadian geo-political gains but for a free and safer world.
These young Canadians, so many of whom crossed the seas never to return, made their sacrifice for the freedom of oppressed peoples, an idealistic end to tyranny and an irresistible desire to make the world a safer place for those unable to secure freedom from their own resources.
Of a historic significance, the last surviving Canadian Veteran of WWI, John Babcock, passed away in February of this year. Though he never served in the front lines, in his final years Mr. Babcock provided a tangible and symbolic connection to that distant struggle that inflicted more than 60,000 Canadian war deaths from 1914 to 1918. Of the almost 1 million who served in WWI, the Great War, The War to End all Wars, all are now gone.
Whistler's Remembrance Day Service will take place at the Cenotaph in front of Fire Hall #1. A short parade will move up Village Gate Boulevard at 10:45 a.m. with the service beginning at 10:50 a.m. The Whistler Children's Chorus will again perform and a helicopter fly-past and presentation of wreaths will be part of the service.
A community reception hosted by Whistler Rotary follows the service.