Albeit slowly, ideas about Canadian veteran are changing across Canada, and it’s beginning with the younger generation in schools.
Schools in Hay River held their annual Remembrance Day services on Nov. 9 and students from Grades 4-7 at Princess Alexandra school filed into the gymnasium mid-morning.
Principal Chris Philpotts delivered accounts he received from his uncle, who served in World War II. He shared old portraits, photos of spitfire and Lancaster bomber planes and talked about Canadian efforts during the Korean War, World War I, World War II, the war in Afghanistan and both combat and peacekeeping efforts.
Although he said he identified most with the Second World War because the event, including its veterans and their stories, was closer to his formative years, he said the youth of today will be more aware of current-day veterans.
“I find I have to work at remembering, even though I’m quite aware, of the soldiers in Afghanistan as veterans in the same way,” said Philpotts. “I think the kids growing up now have and will have more of an idea of (the new war veteran) than we do.”
A few students in Tyler Hawkins’ Grade 4-5 class have a split view of war and the modern day veteran.
“I think of the soldiers and how the war started,” said Kendall Collins. “I think of it as something that happened a long time ago and also now, but I wish I knew more.”
Student Max Bloomstrand said he pictures soldiers both old and young as veterans, and imagines war as something that happens far, far away.
Peter Osted presented to the students that Canadians fought against regimes which took away basic rights and freedoms like freedom of speech – freedoms that not everyone has even today.
Still, Philpotts expressed to students there are powerful lessons to learn and gratitude to pay from the earlier world wars in which Canadians were involved, especially World War II.
“There was a student who was caught in school wearing a swastika on his arm,” said Philpotts. “It was something he had probably seen on the Internet and thought was cool. He said he thought it was cool. I told him that if the people who used that symbol were in power now, they would kill him where he stood because he had brown skin. So it’s very important to remember these people who have protected and continue to protect us.”
by Angele Cano