A medal that my father got for being in the Korean war

My father’s medal from the Korean war

When my father was a young man he left his home to go and travel across the country. During his time it meant riding the rails. One day he got tired of the hand to mouth living that riding the rails means and decided he needed a job. He’d been on a farm most of his life so he thought his skills were limited. Who would hire a strong young man with limited skills? The army.

So, one day he up and enlisted into the army. He loved it. They paid him, gave him three meals a day, he had friends, they clothed him, housed him, gave him everything he needed and all he had to do was go to Korea. He did. When his time there was done he signed up for the Air Force and later joined the Merchant Marines. He probably would have been in for life if he hadn’t met my mother and gotten a great job with the City of Vancouver.

My grandfather was an equally uncommon man. He signed up for the army during World War I. A blacksmith by trade, he joined up and was sent to France. Then he lived through Passchendaele. Imagine a muddy bog filled with the bodies and wounded of a battle that was going nowhere. This was probably one of the bloodiest and dirtiest battles of the war. My grandfather was there.

When World War II broke out, my grandfather enlisted again. Psychologically he was damaged from his first stint in the army but he was determined to do his duty. He was sent to London to help rebuild after the bombings. He stayed here until his death.

My father never talked about Korea until his later years. In the last year of his life he admitted that going to Korea scared the hell out of him and he didn’t want to go. He went because he was needed. He loved being in the Armed Forces and was always quietly proud of having served. Since I never knew my grandfather, I can only assume he was proud to have served as well.

Every November 11, I honour my family legacy and all those who have ever served in the Canadian Armed Forces. This is my time to thank those past and present who join up so that Canada can help keep this country safe. This is not something I do lightly. It’s not a nodding pass I give when I buy a poppy. I sincerely thank everyone who’s served.

Now I’m told that May 9th will be called the “Day of Honour“. A special day to honour those who went to Afghanistan. A day set aside for those men and women who put their lives on the line to keep Canada safe.

Wait. What now?

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that what November 11th is about? Isn’t November 11th a time when we honour ALL our veterans, past and present? So apparently those who served in Afghanistan are more special than my father and grandfather. They’re so special they get a day all of their own. So why can’t my father who went to Korea get a special day of his own? What about my grandfather who saw both World War I and the devastation of World War II? Can he have a special day? No, because they’re not as special as the men and women who went to Afghanistan.

It’s not that I want to dishonour those who went to Afghanistan. Far from it. I want to give them the honour they deserve. By giving those veterans who went to Afghanistan a special day, we cut them off from the rich legacy of those who served before them and helped pave the way for them. We make them separate and apart from the legacy that is their right and due and we diminish their service by doing so.

This isn’t about the veterans who served in Afghanistan, it’s about Harper and his butt buddies. Yes, I said it. Harper isn’t popular and neither has our participation in Afghanistan. Harper needs some photo ops and to be seen as the good guy here. He needs to show everyone that he’s the hero. He isn’t and don’t you buy it. It’s a load of shit and our veterans are paying the price for his face time. That needs to stop.

So I apologize to those veterans who served in Afghanistan. I will not be honouring you on May 9th. This isn’t your day, it’s Harper’s day and you deserve better than that. I will, however, honour you with your brothers and sisters, with my father and grandfather, on November 11th. The day that truly belongs to you.