What does Remembrance Day mean to millennials?


Ninety-eight years ago, the “war to end all wars” came to an end. In this global conflict, Canada mobilized 620,000 soldiers. Of these soldiers, 20,000 were under the age of 18 when they volunteered. So many of these brave souls didn’t come home. Roughly one third of the mobilized soldiers did not come home.

This is often considered the “lost generation,” as even those who returned home were affected for the rest of their lives. Just over two decades after the end of WW1, the world was once again at war. This conflict would go on to claim 60 million lives from around the world, including another 40,000 Canadian soldiers.

Beyond these conflicts, Canadian soldiers have gone wherever they are needed. This includes deployments during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Yugoslav wars, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and the current fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as well as many others. Sacrificing their lives to protect people at home — protecting people like you and I.

The Peak wanted to find out how the student body felt about Remembrance Day, so we asked some SFU students, “What does Remembrance Day mean to you?”

What makes this sacrifice so stunning, is the fact that it is done for us, by people we don’t even know, and people we would most likely never meet.

As Jamie Shorter, fifth-year criminology student, suggested, “Remembrance Day is a day of reflection and of gratitude for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. My relatives were members of the British Army. November 11 is a day to honour their service and sacrifice.”

This was a common sentiment among the millennials I asked. As Peter Han, third-year psychology student, put it, “Obviously, there’s this generation that sacrificed their youth or basically their lives during their youth for the liberation of our country and to fight for our own good and I feel like it’s just an important time to give thanks to those people that let us live the quality of life that we have today.”

Echoing these two opinions, Patrick Sawers, fourth-year business student, said “Remembrance Day is about recognizing how everything we take for granted is the product of some truly unbelievable sacrifices by others. I think it’s important that everyone takes some time out of their day to appreciate those that gave their lives for us.”

The common thread that links each of these statements together is a notion of sacrifice. Not only that, but that it was a sacrifice made so we can live in the country we live in today. I had an opportunity that I am truly appreciative of, to ask this same question to a pair of veterans, who know better than anyone what sacrifice is.

As Sargent McTavish, of the Royal Westminster Regiment Airborne Infantry put it, “Remembrance Day causes me to take time to stop and think about the sacrifices others have made. We as a country, the things that we sometimes get angry about, if we stop and think about it [. . .] those weren’t just given to us, they had to be fought for.” Sargent McTavish elaborated on the First World War, saying “there’s not a city in Canada that wasn’t affected by that war [. . .] Back then you took a train across the country for days, then get on a ship for days. We are so lucky.”

Similarly, Corporal Reimer suggested that “Remembrance Day [is] also a sad day as I think about my friends that did not come home from tours of duty when I did. When I think about Remembrance Day, I think of honouring their sacrifice and paying respect by attending my local cenotaph. Veterans should be honoured because they put their lives on the line so we can all live in peace. It’s an important day for me to spend time with fellow veterans and remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

The statements of Sargent McTavish and Corporal Reimer highlight the sheer extent of sacrifices of soldiers and their families. There are the sacrifices of those who went to war and came back deeply affected, both physically and emotionally, by their experiences; there is the sacrifice of the loved ones of soldiers who are sent to conflict zones, not knowing day by day if they will return home; and of course, there’s those who make the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

What makes this sacrifice so stunning, is the fact that it is done for us, by people we don’t even know, and people we would most likely never meet.

Just the fact that 100 years ago, there was some 18-year-old boy, like thousands around him, who volunteered to spend weeks travelling across the country and the ocean, to go to a country he has never been to, just to risk his life so I can live in the free country I live in today. These men and women are willing to sacrifice everything for you. This Remembrance Day, please ensure you respect and honour that sacrifice.  

Special thank you to Sargent McTavish and Corporal Reimer for their service and the interviews.