Our Valiant Sons
Our valiant sons are fighting Huns
With old time gallantry,
Mid shot and shell and fumes of hell
On Flemish dune and lea.
Their battle cry is “Do or die”,
When e’er they’re called to fight
The brutal foe who strikes the blow
At liberty and right.
Near Yser’s banks depleted ranks
Withstood like Knights of yore,
The Hun’s design to smash our line,
And gain the Gallic shore.
Now let us sing God Save Our King
And our brave lads o’er sea,
And come what may to God we pray
To send us victory.
– Frederick Burrows, 1917
This was but one man’s words to describe who they were fighting and what they were fighting for in the “War To End All Wars”
Repeat that: “War To End All Wars.” A statement. A promise. A lie.
Yet, that is exactly what they believed. With the advent of aircraft for dogfighting, bombing, and observation, and the first true battlefield tests of tanks and high-rate-of-fire automatic weapons, these people, some 100 years ago, honestly believed that war would become a thing of the past. That it would be something to be taught in history books in the brave new world of global enlightenment.
So much so did they believe this that at war’s end statues were erected all over North America, Africa, Asia and Europe so no one would ever forget what happened. Here in Canada, they were put up to remember the more than 56,500 Canadians who died. Many of these ‘cenotaphs’ were inscribed with the names of the local dead, and often with just two words at the top: “Never Again”
But this was not to be. Within 21 years, a new, even greater war was to begin, in which the Canadian armed forces actively participated. World War II took the lives of 42,042 Canadians, and wounded 54,414 more. Just five years after that war ended a conflict in Asia erupted, in which Canada again became involved. Out of 26,791 soldiers we sent to Korea, 1,558 did not return.
From the mid-1960’s to the mid-1970’s, up to 40,000 Canadians enlisted in the U.S. Army, and approximately 12,000 of them served combat roles in the Viet Nam War. At least 134 Canadians died in Viet Nam. This time, they didn’t enlist to fight for our country, but they believed they were fighting for the rights of others, and that was enough. That kind of bravery and heroic attitude exemplifies the ideology of Canadians. We will go anywhere to defend people that we believe need our help.
From then, it was to be another 15 years before Canadian people were called to fight in another, new kind of war. The Gulf war claimed no Canadian lives, but only because of the new, technology-based style of warfare that allows destruction and killing with immunity from a distance. Tragic.
In the 21st century, a few Canadians lost their live in the Iraqi war, even though Canada had not declared war on Iraq. Afghanistan has claimed another 158 Canadian lives.
Between the major wars of the 20th century with Canadian involvement, (not including U.N. sanctioned ‘police actions’) over 100,000 Canadians lost their lives (including over 100 women). In a total of ten years of combat. Spread over only 38 years. Let me say that again.
Over One Hundred Thousand Dead. In Ten Years.
That is an average of over Ten Thousand (10,000) for each and every year Canadians were in wartime combat. In WWI, 6 out of every 1,000 people in Canada died. In WWII, that number dropped to 3 out of every thousand, but records of wounded servicemen show that another 5 out of every thousand were injured. Korea was considerably less, with ‘only’ 9 out of every 100,000 losing their lives. The average person meets and interacts on a personal level with approximately 1000 people during their lifetime. If you were living in WWI, 6 of those people died. If you happened to live in the WWII times, 3 of those you knew died, and 5 were wounded.
So, once we recognize those numbers, why did they volunteer to go? What would make someone risk the odds that they might die in a strange land? Some men said they wanted the chance to go overseas. Some men said they wanted to go because of a sense of adventure. Some maybe had other reasons that we may not understand. But, underlying all those ‘reasons’ was a sense of duty. A sense of right, of concern, of being able to help a cause that they believed in.
Our freedom and liberty.
Think about those numbers again. Which 10, of the thousand people do you know that you would be willing to send to their death to protect the rights of you and your family? Hard choice, isn’t it?
Now, think about this: Would you sentence yourself to death to protect the rights of those thousand people?
That’s an even harder decision, isn’t it?
But, what if you had to make that choice today? Right now? Could you?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to.
Because it’s already been done for you.
Because each man, woman, and child in Canada gave up a husband or wife, brother or sister, son or daughter, father or mother, or friend, for the same reason.
Because each of those names on the cenotaphs and gravestones was a real person.
Because each of those people sacrificed themselves to protect the rest of the thousand lives.
Because each of those soldiers burned, bled, or drowned to protect all Canadian’s rights.
Because each Canadian gave up a life to ensure one person’s freedoms, rights, and life.
Never forget. “Never Again”
– ©Copyright 2000, 2016, 2018 Brian R. Smeding