They make Canadians proud. They unite us in unique ways. Their lives and stories have and are changing our world.
I'm speaking of the members of Canada's military personnel, both past and present. Men and women – including members of the RCMP, who stand for the values our country defends: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
To help Canadians recognize what we owe them, our government has designated November 5 to 11 as Veterans' Week. This year's season of remembrance includes something new: the marking of the end of Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan. It brings opportunity to pay tribute to a decade of contributions and sacrifices made by our troops—and to those who have remained behind as part of the non-combat training mission.
Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has developed a multi-pronged approach to honouring Canada's military heroes. It includes a key element – keeping our youth informed. Every year, Veterans Affairs Canada provides educational materials on remembrance to more than 16,000 Canadian schools. And in the hopes of inspiring the next generation, the department has also posted interactive learning activities on its Web site.
Hundreds of commemorative ceremonies and events will take place across Canada during Veterans' Week. The Yorkton-Melville constituency office has completed its annual wreath detail – getting Government of Canada wreaths out to constituency Legion branches that hold services of Remembrance. I encourage you to attend one in your community.
The ages and needs of Canada's veterans are diverse and increasing rapidly. Because it is committed to doing all it can to meet their needs and those of their families, VAC has recently (as of October 6, 2011) increased the financial support of thousands of veterans, new and recent. You can learn more about how VAC assists veterans at veterans.gc.ca and 1-866-522-2122.
Each of us can honour our military personnel all year round. I've heard of amateur photographers who offer complimentary photo shoots to veterans. Other people are recording stories that may otherwise be lost. A member of my office staff and I almost always wear red on Fridays as a tribute to the men and women who have served our country.
And did you know that as a small token of appreciation and remembrance, the government offers one full-sized Canadian flag to the immediate family of a veteran who has passed away? Families can arrange that by calling my constituency office at 306.782.3309.
This year, I challenge you to make remembrance more than something you feel. Make it something you do – all year round.
How will YOU remember?