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Veterans deserve more respect

One of my favourite movies is Starship Troopers. I know, I know, it is really campy and silly … but science fiction, alien insects, a 1950s newscaster narration and Neil Patrick Harris all combine to make it a thing of beauty.

Like most good movies though, there is a kernel of truth hidden within that makes us consider the world in a different way. In this case, it is a civics lesson. Here is how the future unfolds for troopers, they get to vote – they are citizens – and they are the only ones.

In this imagined future the only ones who can hold civic office or vote are veterans. It is an interesting idea, that if you want to have a say in how the world is run, you have to be willing to risk your life to defend it.

As Remembrance Day comes to the fore each year I am thrown back to thinking about this idea and wondering about how different it is for us.

Certainly soldiers are not thought of as being the best we have in the human race. We do not treat them with respect in the same way that anyone with a professional degree is treated. We do not think that soldiers could run the country better than lawyers, clearly. It is often thought of as a minimum wage job and a last resort. Even when professionals are in the military we probably assume they are doing it for the free tuition.

To fight for Queen and Country is an interesting concept that means many things … but I think for many people who do choose there really is a sense of civic duty. Like most of us they want to make the world a better place and they see the possibility of this within the army, or the navy or the air force.

From the World Wars when people fought for a way of life against an aggressive foreign power through United Nations Peacekeeping right on to trying to maintain stability in today’s war torn countries, the Canadians who step up want to make a difference.

Once a year we gather for about an hour, and we ask those not gathered to take a moment and be silent – a time to remember and to honour those that died trying to keep us safe and change the world. There is a significance to the date as well. November 11 at 11 a.m. marked the official end of World War 1.

We have trouble doing this. There are four provinces where it is not even a statutory day off. Can you imagine that – not even a couple of minutes, or an hour of our time, to respect and remember people who sacrificed everything for what they believed? Let alone making them the only ones who get a say in how we live and lead our country like it is in Robert Heinlein’s imaginary future where the Troopers decide.

Should we be doing more? Probably. Veterans are only about 500,000 out of 35 odd million – it might be a little unfair to make them the only ones who vote – but I hope you can see what I am saying. I am not sure that even if we kept Remembrance Day as fully as possible that it would be really enough.

I have no suggestions as to what to do instead, or what more to do. I guess this is an impassioned plea to take it seriously. No matter who or what we are remembering, these people really put their all into making our world a better one.

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