Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise today in the House in support of Canada's greatest national heroes. As we begin Veterans Week, our thoughts turn to the brave souls who sacrificed their youthful innocence to fight for King and country.
As a young girl, I watched two of my brothers join the war effort. It was a very different time. There was a sense of duty that extended to all Canadians, a belief that we would not stand idle as the freedom of the world was in peril.
My family was among the luckiest, as both my brothers returned back from the war safe and sound.
Too many families lost their brothers, their fathers and their sons.
November 11 is as much about remembering those fallen Canadians as it is about honouring those who remain with us this day. It is about ensuring that we do everything in our power to preserve peace in the world, while remaining vigilant in the event that our efforts fail.
All in the House have borne witness to the recent horrors of war.
The campaign in Afghanistan, a part of the larger war on terrorism, was costly for Canadians and some of their families. The loss of those brave Canadian soldiers was a terrible reminder of the cost of the war.
Yesterday in the House, Mr. Speaker, you honoured and brought to our attention the presence of Mr. Paul Métivier, the 102 year old World War I veteran, who enlisted in the army in 1917. Also in the gallery was Lieutenant-Colonel Al Trotter who flew 44 missions over Europe during World War II and who was a prisoner of war.
It robs us of our best and our brightest. It asks us as a nation to make the ultimate sacrifice and many of them have.
There is something truly exceptional about a citizen whose love of country is so strong and so unwavering that they are willing to risk their lives for its defence. We must never forget those who were in the Korean war, the Gulf war and our peacekeepers who have done so much around the world.
The men and women of our armed forces, today as always, have offered themselves as the first line of defence for our borders and as the ambassadors of our nation's most cherished values. They are the embodiment of duty and courage. They are the best of their generation and the personification of what it truly means to be Canadian.
It is sometimes difficult for us to look at veterans today as the vibrant young men and women they once were. Many veterans are too modest of their accomplishments. Few will allow themselves to be called heroes. Their view is that they did what needed to be done and that there was no question about it. They do not say “We made sacrifices”. They just say “We did what we could for Canada”. Even those who lost friends or family will say that if they had to make the choice again, they would don their Canadian Forces uniform without hesitation. That is why we honour them.
For many of them it has been 50, 60 or even 80 years since they last put down a weapon, but their ageless courage and love of country still burns inside them.
Each Remembrance Day I have the honour and privilege to participate in our ceremonies in my riding of Saint John, New Brunswick. This Friday, once again I will visit the high schools, and I say this for the Minister of Veterans Affairs, to speak to the students once again about the sacrifices that were made for them and for all of us.
Every year, I regret to say, that there are fewer veterans who are able to join with us, but that said, there is always a proud contingent on hand. Even those veterans who are now waging a private battle against time and age stand in the often harsh Canadian climate to remember their fallen comrades. They stand ramrod straight and their salutes are just as crisp as a new recruit. There is a pride both for what they did and who they became.
Canada was a young nation when we were first called to war and it was our contribution, far greater than a country of our size would have expected to give, that earned the respect of the world.
Still today the nations of Europe remember the brave young Canadians who liberated them from the clutches of the Nazi regime. Still today school children from Newfoundland to British Columbia pin poppies to their jackets and are part of our cadets that attend the services.
Still today we gather in silence at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. We will never stop thanking them for we owe them a debt of thanks that can never be repaid. We will remember them.