Trigger warning for discussion of suicide
This year will be my first Remembrance Day in Canada. The immediate difference I have noticed between Remembrance Day and its equivalent in the states, Veterans Day, is that Remembrance Day is a great deal more solemn and quiet. In the U.S, Veterans Day is a day of parades, long weekends, and general merriment, whereas up here, it’s poetry about red poppies, moments of silence, and thank-yous to those who served.
Let me share something with that new tone in mind: Remember not only those who gave their lives immediately on the battlefield on Remembrance Day, give your thoughts also to those who died many years after the guns stopped firing and the troops came home. According to PressTV, an average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day. The VA’s stats show that veterans make up 20 percent of the 30,000 suicides in the United States each year.
It’s not just suicides either. My father, who was a Vietnam veteran and a former Navy SEAL, died many years after his involvement in the war, because of exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange, which the U.S Military sprayed at least 11 million gallons of in Vietnam. Even though it did not happen until much later in his life, my father still lost his life due to the war, specifically, the blatant disregard for considering the health and safety of soldiers and the people of Vietnam by the ones who authorized and carried out the spraying.
Their service and their sacrifice is no less than that of soldiers killed in battle, and they deserve to be remembered and honoured equally, whether their death was brought about by enemy fire, a strange and tragic form of wide-spread “friendly fire” known as Agent Orange, or suicide. Remember them as well on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.