Freedom Isn’t Free
Ordinary Canadians who made extraordinary sacrifices
We must remember. If we do not, the sacrifice of those one hundred thousand Canadian lives will be meaningless. They died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for Canada. The meaning of their sacrifice rests with our collective national consciousness; our future is their monument.1
These wars touched the lives of Canadians of all ages, all races, all social classes. Fathers, sons, daughters, sweethearts: they were killed in action, they were wounded, and thousands who returned were forced to live the rest of their lives with the physical and mental scars of war. The people who stayed in Canada also served – in factories, in voluntary service organizations, wherever they were needed.
We often take for granted our Canadian values and institutions, our freedom to participate in cultural and political events, and our right to live under a government of our choice. The Canadians who went off to war in distant lands went in the belief that the values and beliefs enjoyed by Canadians were being threatened. They truly believed that “Without freedom there can be no ensuring peace and without peace no enduring freedom.” 2
By remembering their service and their sacrifice, we recognize the tradition of freedom these men and women fought to preserve. They believed that their actions in the present would make a significant difference for the future, but it is up to us to ensure that their dream of peace is realized. On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country and acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they fought hard to achieve.
Whom Do We Remember?
As the artillerymen swung three abreast down Main Street, traffic stopped and people watched from the sidewalks. Some stood in silence. A few wept. Some cheered a bit or called out to soldiers they knew – to an officer who had for years devoted his spare time to the militia battery, to a genial giant from the slums, to a farm boy from Taylor Village, to a man with a police record, to a teenager leaving the prettiest girl in town.3 Those who came forward had not stopped to count the cost, for the excitement was thrilling, the lottery alluring, and the cause glorious; but now that the confusion was passed, and the fulfilment of vows alone remained to be faced, things took on a more sombre aspect ….4
Again, in 1939 when the mobilization orders came for the Second World War, Canadians flocked to enlist. The new
troops included veterans of earlier wars, boys still in high school, and thousands of unemployed.
Even while immersed in the brutality of the war, some men take time to question the forces that bring the hostility between countries to such terrible ends, and to ask whether life can ever return to normal. Donald Pearce wrote these words from a front line dugout:
When will it all end? The idiocy and the tension, the dying of
young men, the destruction of homes, of cities, starvation,
exhaustion, disease, children parentless and lost, cages full of
shivering, starving prisoners, long lines of civilians plodding
through mud, the endless pounding of the battle-line. 5
When will it all end?
Those who experienced the blood and carnage of battle believed that their efforts had made the world a safer place. Yet only a few years after the end of the Second World War, Canadians were again called to uphold the cause of peace and freedom. From 1950 to 1955, Canadian men and women served under the United Nations flag in Korea. They included new recruits as well as veterans from the previous war. Along with various army units, the navy and the air force provided vital support and endured months of hardship in the hope of maintaining world peace.
Since the end of the overt hostilities in Korea more than 50 years ago, Canadian soldiers have come to play a different, yet essential, role on the world stage. Our commitment and skills as peacekeepers has gained Canada respect and influence the world over.
For all of these conflicts fought in far-off lands, there is much to remember. Foremost are the people, the men and women who served wherever they were needed. They faced difficult situations bravely and brought honour to themselves, to their loved ones and to their country. They were ordinary Canadians who made extraordinary sacrifices.
What Should We Remember?
Formal records tell us about the size and strength of armies, military strategy, and the outcome of battles. Such information is vital, yet to fully appreciate military history we must try to understand the human face of war. Loss of
12 A Day of Remembrance comrades, extreme living conditions, intense training, fear, as well as mental, spiritual and physical hardship helps illuminate what the individual sailor, soldier and airman experienced in battle.
In memory of Brigadier (Uncle) Stanley Todd, CBE, DSO, ED, CD, a veteran of the First and Second World Wars, a dedicated Militia officer, the CRA of 3 Canadian Infantry Division on D-Day, Commander Corps Artillery of the 2nd Canadian Corps, Brigade Commander First Canadian Infantry Brigade, and a soldier and trainer of great renown. He was still lecturing at the Army Staff College in May of 1996, at the age of 98, a week before he tragically died right before the eyes of his colleagues at RMC Club dinner! He was a trainer, teacher and mentor to almost eight generations of Canadian soldiers in peace and war in the Permanent Force and in the a Militia.
- excerpt – training to fight and win – in the Canadian Army edition 2- May 2001
- Mural from Arthur, Ontario known as ” Canada’s Most Patriotic Village “