Did you know that there are currently 62,000 military personnel serving in our Canadian forces in various vital roles at home and overseas? These brave and dedicated men and women include: 9,000 in the navy, 19,500 in the army, 12,500 in the air force, and 20,000 administrative and support staff. Our nation also has 25,000 very well trained Reservists from all walks of life, who are prepared to serve whereever and whenever they are called upon.
At the present time there are 2,800 Canadians serving in the war-torn Afghanistan, and since this extremely volatile mission started in 2002, one hundred and sixteen of our fine soldiers have paid the extreme sacrifice for their country and cause. For over a century many thousands of our nation’s military forces have served in numerous peacekeeping roles, responding quickly and unselfishly to domestic disasters, the onslaught of war, and horrific terrorist threats throughout the world. Here is a true story of one man, who like many of us, may have taken the efforts of our armed forces a little bit for granted, but quickly realized how important they are to the protection and safety of so many, each and every day of our lives!
Last week, while travelling to Toronto on business, this gentleman noticed an Army Sargeant dressed in full uniform and travelling with a folded flag, but did not put two and two together. After boarding his flight, he turned to the Sargeant, who had been invited to sit First Class just across from him, and inquired if he was heading home.
‘No’, he responded. ‘Heading out’, I asked? ‘No. I’m escorting a soldier home. ‘Going to pick him up?’ ‘No. He is with me right now. He was killed in Afghanistan, and I’m taking him home to his family,’ the soldier solemly explained.
The realization of what that soldier had been asked to do hit the man like a punch to the gut. “He told him that it was an honour to perform this service, and although the soldier didn’t know his fallen comrade, he had delivered the news of his passing to his family, and felt that he had become closer to knowing him and his loving family after so many conversations is so few days! A little while later the busy traveller would turn to the soldier and extend his hand and express with all his sincerity, “Thank you, thank you so much for doing what you and all of our military do so that my family and I can do and enjoy what we choose each and every day and feel safe.”
Upon landing in Toronto the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the following announcement over the intercom. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had the honour of having Sargeant Steely of the Canadian Armed Forces join us on this flight. He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to his family, and I ask that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door to allow Sgt. Steeley to deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will then turn off the seat belt sign, and we thank you for your kindly co-operation.” Without a sound, all went as requested, and the traveller took a deep breath as he noticed the sargeant saluting the casket as it was brought off the plane; and this vivid experience and those actions would help him realize for the rest of his life how proud he was to be a Canadian.
As a salute to our Canadian forces, both now, and down through the years a group of proud citizens have come up with the unique idea of wearing red every Friday! The reason? Canadians who support our troops sometimes used to be called the ‘silent majority’, but now we are no longer silent, and while we will not be organized, boisterous, or overbearing, it is hoped that all of us in some way will come out in great numbers to voice our love for God, country, and home. This wonderful idea for expressing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect will hopefully carry on forever, and will send a peaceful but deafening message of our appreciation for those who so proudly defend our nation.
The first thing a soldier says when asked, ‘What can we do to make things better for you?’ is ‘
We need your support and your prayers’
So lets dig out the brightest red t-shirt, sweater, coat, hat, or whatever we have each Friday in honour of our troops; and I am sure that there is no doubt that your boss, your teacher, and your parents, and everyone else will be in full support of this gala and ongoing celebration! Have a great week, all of you!