Mr. Speaker, in the presence of representatives of our veterans here with us today, I would like to rise and speak about them, their lives and our country.
As Canadians, we take pride in being a forward looking nation, a country that strives always to overcome the challenges of today so that we may make a better tomorrow for all.
We are a nation that looks ahead, but in a few short days we will be a nation united in recalling the past to honour those who were there when we needed them most.
We will look back this Veterans' Week, as we do each year at this time, and we will feel sadness. We will feel gratitude. We will feel pride. We will feel humbled.
Most of all, we will feel the very spirit of a nation and the spirit of nation builders, nation builders who shaped the country from the deadly mire of Flanders and the freezing flood waters of the Netherlands, from the flying steel of Dieppe and the blood-soaked sand of Juno Beach, from the treacherous rock of Sicily and the icy slopes of Korea, nation builders whose tireless service in the name of freedom and humanity, in the name of Canada, continues today in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Darfur and elsewhere.
Mr. Speaker, a week does not seem long enough. I suspect Canadians feel the same way. Indeed, in this Year of the Veteran, Canadians have been enthusiastic in showing their commitment to our veterans.
Tens of thousands of Canadians across the country have taken part in hundred and hundreds of activities, big ones and small ones, solemn ones and festive ones, as our nation pays homage during this special year.
I have had the privilege to attend many such events, as have no doubt other members of this House from all sides of the House. The member for Macleod and I had the privilege of attending one such event in Nanton, Alberta, in his riding, where some 5,000 people gathered to mark the building of a monument to commemorate the efforts and sacrifice of the members of Canada's Bomber Command. During World War II, 10,643 Canadians died in that great enterprise, and that enterprise led to the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny.
Thousands of Canadians watched on the streets of Vancouver and on television as we buried Smokey Smith, a beloved member of the armed forces, who was our last surviving Victoria Cross recipient. In celebrating Smokey's life, we also remembered that many Canadians have been recognized for their service and bravery over the years.
Few Canadians may know that one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross was Alexander Dunn who attended Upper Canada College in Toronto and who was awarded one of the original 13 crosses by Queen Victoria for service in the Crimea at the Battle of Balaclava.
The golden thread of service and heroism linking Alexander Dunn to Smokey remains as an inspiration to the young men and women of the armed forces who today serve the cause of peace, stability and freedom around the world.
As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war this year, we are reminded once again of the depth of the sacrifice and the breadth of the achievement of those who set aside their own hopes and dreams to serve a higher purpose.
We were touched by the outpouring of gratitude from the people of the Netherlands, young and old who gathered in the hundreds of thousands to thank and honour the Canadian veterans who played such a pivotal role in the history of their nation. They came by the thousands too in Canada as we marked VE Day this year here in Ottawa with the opening of Canada's spectacular new war museum.
We remember those who served until the very last days of the second world war in the Far East, many of whom were prisoners of war for almost four years of their very young and terrible lives they lived at that time.
We remember this week especially the sacrifice of Canada's first people, as aboriginal veterans, youth and spiritual elders complete a pilgrimage to Europe, a spiritual journey to call home the spirits of hundreds of warriors who fell on those far off battlefields.
This year we have celebrated the contribution of all of our veterans. We have thanked them for their sacrifice and we have remembered them.
From November 5 to 11, we will be marking Veterans' Week and remembering how important it is to pay tribute to our veterans by teaching young Canadians what they did for us.
We must feed the flame of the spirit of remembrance and gratitude that has burned throughout this Year of the Veteran. We are eternally indebted to our veterans.
Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, the Year of the Veteran and Veterans' Week provide us with an opportunity to renew our commitment to Canada's war veterans and to be sure that the flame of remembrance burns forever.
Just as we will pass this nation we so cherish to our children, let us also pass to them an understanding that this precious legacy comes not from us, for we are but trustees, trustees of a nation forged in the courage of those who served and shaped by the sacrifice of those who fell.