General Jonathan Vance is Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces.
On the battlefield or in times of relative peace, a soldier never stands alone. Standing with them on Remembrance Day, are family members who support those who don a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) uniform now, or in the past.
Like my fellow Canadians, I paid my respects on Nov. 11. On Remembrance Day, I stood as a General, proud of the role I play in the military, and proud of the men and women I command who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. It was a day of remembrance and a day not to forget. It was a time to pause and think of the soldiers, sailors, aviators, Special Forces operators, their families, and the mental and physical suffering that can continue long after soldiers stop fighting. On that day, we remembered.
Now, I offer a challenge to you. The one, often-cold November day we commit to our veterans must not be the only day we remember. It is time for us to show our thanks and appreciation every day. Did you know that in 2017, the Canadian military was composed of over 100,000 regular and reserve force members supported by almost 140,000 family members? From shipping off to wars and peacekeeping missions in foreign lands, to providing support here at home during floods, storms, forest fires and other disasters, military members have made Canada the peaceful, secure country that we proudly call home. Whenever you see someone in a Canadian Forces uniform, they should bring to mind the very best our country has to offer in bravery and dedication. We must remember and support our members every day of the year, for they too become veterans
In 2007, donations by Canadians helped to establish the Military Families Fund, now known as Support Our Troops. As the name implies, the Fund stands behind soldiers and their families to help with their unique needs and special challenges. The Support Our Troops Fund is still operational and continues to rely on the generosity of Canadians like you, not just in November, the traditional month of remembrance, but every day of the year.
As one would expect, life for our men and women in uniform is not easy. We see that in the news and read about missions online. What we sometimes overlook are the military families who are the strength behind the uniform. They share in the stresses and strains that result from deployments of their loved ones into dangerous operational duty. They have to cope with the long separations during missions and training. They also make important sacrifices and experience the challenges associated with frequent relocations. Can you imagine being transferred to a base in a remote area of Canada? You have a few days to purchase a home, find health care, schools and all the support your family needs. How would you fare financially if your spouse had a hard time finding employment? Or, if your spouse is certified in one province as a nurse, lawyer or teacher had to recertify at your expense all while you are preparing to deploy?
Many Canadians experience the difficulty of accessing health care and childcare for their family given the shortage of physicians and long wait lists. Imagine for a minute that your child is on a waiting list to see a specialist in one province and you are moved to another province, to find your child at the bottom of the list again.
Military families are resilient because they have to be. They find solutions. They make do with what they have and they face each challenge with strength. Canadian Forces members and their families appreciate Canadians standing behind them. The support of Canadians gives families the strength to be there for the military member, so that military member can concentrate on their job.
When you see a member of the Canadian Armed Forces walk by in uniform, or see them deployed in Canada or abroad, remember they are able to do their work because of their family, the support from fellow Canadians, and the programs and services that help them to serve. And we need their service every day of the year.