Young veterans reluctant to join in Remembrance Day services, organizer says
If you wore a uniform, you deserve recognition Nov. 11, Saint John organizer says
With about 7,000 people paying their respects to Canada's veterans and war dead every year, Saint John's Remembrance Day service is the biggest in the province.
But one organizer worries about some veterans who are reluctant to take part.
Younger veterans have been sitting out the service entirely or watching it from the stands, says Bernard Cormier, who has helped organize the event at Harbour Station for years.
The trend has become more apparent with the inevitable decline of older veterans, he said.
"Obviously, our World War Two veterans are declining very quickly," said Cormier, the chair of the Saint John Remembrance Day service committee. "And even the Korean War veterans, there's very few of those left as well."
The number of veterans on parade is growing smaller each year, he said.
But each year, Cormier notices many other veterans, who didn't serve in the Second World War or in Korea, sitting in the stands at the Harbour Station service.
"They don't consider themselves to be veterans and yet they served in the military."
Anyone who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces, he said, deserves to take part in the ceremony.
'I never served my country for the recognition.' - Jamie Keating, former combat engineer
Cormier said he's spoken with many who served tours in Afghanistan who feel the term "veteran" should not be applied to them, since they didn't serve in conflicts known as world wars.
"And yet, they served in uniform in the military," Cormier said.
Without their participation in Remembrance Day services, especially in the March of Honour, it's difficult for the public to fully acknowledge their service, he said.
"I encourage anyone who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces to take the time to reconsider their position," he said.
"Otherwise, the service will still continue. It's just we won't have that human face attached to what we call a 'veteran.'"
According to Jamie Keating, who served for more than a decade as a combat engineer, not everyone who's worn the uniform feels comfortable in front of a crowd.
Like many veterans, Keating, whose service included disaster response in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I never served my country for the recognition," said Keating, who finds himself cringing when people thank him for his service.
"Especially with PTSD, you know, doing that in front of a crowd or marching or being made a spectacle of is quite a big deal, which is why I just choose to remember on my own."
Keating also said he associates Remembrance Day ceremonies with the Royal Canadian Legion, which he and some other vets believe doesn't offer enough support to veterans.