It is a tough question that Pat Stogran, the retired colonel and soon-to-be former veterans ombudsman, insists Canadians ask themselves about the war in Afghanistan this week.
With combat operations slated to wind down next July - or possibly even next spring - Thursday could be the last war-time Remembrance Day for years to come.
Nov. 11, the date the Armistice took effect in 1918 to end the slaughter of the First World War, was originally meant as a day of reflection.
That kind of soul-searching should not be passed off lightly this year as the country makes the transition from war to self-imposed peace, Mr. Stogran said.
He said ordinary citizens and political leaders should think seriously about how and when they commit soldiers to war and ask themselves why Canada was in Afghanistan in the first place.
"We've paid a high price in terms of human sacrifice and is it all for naught?" Mr. Stogran said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.
Mr. Stogran, who commanded the country's first battle group in Kandahar in 2002, said if the country has lost the will to fight, it should fold up the tents and not wait until the spring because any deaths from here on would be in vain.
"Let's pull out now. Why should we have one more person die if we're not committed to the long-term?"
Mr. Stogran was in command when four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight others wounded in a friendly fire attack in April 2002. It haunted him every day for years, he said.
The Harper government is on track to meet its deadline of pulling the army out of combat by next summer, with all equipment brought home by the end of 2011.
An increasing number of military families, including some of the 152 soldiers who have been killed, are asking the same question as Mr. Stogran.
The government has been mute on its reasons and plans for dropping out of the war, other than to say it respects the parliamentary motion to end combat operations and withdraw from Kandahar.
The motion left open the door for further involvement elsewhere in Afghanistan after 2011, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper slammed the door shut on that in 2008 when he declared all troops were coming home.
The opposition Liberals and the Senate have argued for some kind of meaningful military role, such as training the fledgling Afghan military force.
The army is acutely aware of finding meaning for the struggle.
The narrative most often heard around the mess halls is that Canada held the fort in Kandahar until the Americans could arrive. But even that is thin for soldiers who've been there and bled.
In his order laying down the markers for the withdrawal, the general in charge of Canada's overseas command paid special attention to legacy.
"It is critical the legacy of our soldiers, sailors and aircrew be protected and built upon," wrote Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard, in a copy of the order obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws.
A parade of cabinet ministers have said the country will remain engaged with diplomacy and development, but Mr. Stogran said he's seen no evidence of it.
"If it's not worth that kind of diplomatic effort, if it's just about whether we have boots on the ground to serve as witnesses, hostages or victims, then let's bring them back now," he said.
In some respects, Mr. Stogran is the embodiment of the failed hopes and politics that went in to the war.
A soldier used as a poster boy for the old Canadian Alliance party pamphlets, he was appointed the country's first veterans ombudsman three years ago.
He said he discovered that many promises to help veterans were hollow, and when he spoke up he was shut out and marginalized by the government.
Mr. Stogran, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was written off by the Conservatives after a couple of angry closed-door meeting with both the present veterans affairs minister, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, and his predecessor, Greg Thompson.
Mr. Stogran will be replaced Thursday by Guy Parent, a former chief warrant officer for the Canadian Forces.
Regardless of his future, Mr. Stogran said the government will have to explain what the war was all about to not only families of the dead, but also the wounded who will show up at future Remembrance Day services.