By Fardous Hosseiny, President & CEO, Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families
& Ramesh Zacharias, President, CEO & Medical Director, Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans
As November 11, Remembrance Day, comes this year, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it is deservedly a time set aside for deep reflection. We remember the brave individuals who donned the uniform of our Canadian Armed Forces and whose sacrifices allow us to enjoy the gifts of freedom.
In Canada, throughout the many different wars we’ve been a part of, our military has shown up selflessly with service and sacrifice. We often think about the two world wars, but it is important to remember these are not the only times our Canadians military has been present to preserve peace amongst nations. 2022 marks the 105th anniversary of the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendale, and the 80th of the Dieppe raid. It is now 70 years since the events at Hill 355 during the Korean War, and the 30th anniversary of the beginning of peace support efforts in the Balkans (former Yugoslavia).
In total, throughout these many conflicts we have lost more than 100,000 Canadians to war service. This doesn’t take into account the daily acts of courage that comes with service, and it most certainly doesn’t take into account those whose lives continued on when they returned home – fundamentally changed. Currently, we have 617,800 Veterans living in Canada, who are our neighbours and family members. Many of them deal with issues that affect their mental and physical health like musculoskeletal injuries, depression, anxiety and PTSD as a consequence of their service.
Canadians in general know that Remembrance Day is an important day to acknowledge the countless individuals who selflessly volunteered in the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy to defend the principles our country was founded on, even though it meant putting themselves in harm’s way.
There is an expectation, conversely, that when those who have served under these conditions need support in return, it is our duty and obligation as Canadian to provide not just any care, but the highest level of care.
At the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, and the Chronic Pain Centre of Excellence for Canadian Veterans we have a shared vision – the right supports at the right time in the right way for those who have served, and the Families who have quietly walked alongside as the heroes at home. Our approach takes into consideration the unique costs of service both on the mental and physical wellbeing of our soldiers and the needs of the whole person and their Families.
We cannot understand what we haven’t experienced. However, we can listen, we can acknowledge and we can honour military sacrifice for both generations past and present. A quote from Veteran Sean Bruyea encapsulates what we hear daily in our centres. “Like most disabled Veterans I know, I just want to belong, to feel valued. We need Canadians to spend the time to get to know us, to understand what we lived through and sacrificed on their behalf. We don’t want applause, just mutual understanding and compassion.”
As we come to Remembrance Day 2022, this quote exemplifies much of what we hear in our daily conversations with those who are engaged with us – the desire for mutual understanding and compassion. It can start with a genuine “thank you for your service”, the donning of a poppy from November 1st to 11th, and extend as far as getting involved with those who work with and serve Veterans and their Families. It is also important to not only take a day or week in November to remember, to talk about Veterans and their Families, but to keep this conversation going throughout the year. Lest we forget.