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Remembrance Day hits home for troops

Peter Crnogorac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 10/06) - Remembrance Day has always been sacred for members of the military, but with the escalating Canadian casualties in Afghanistan, a greater emotional connection now exists for most serving soldiers, according to the commander of Joint Task Force North.

"Remembrance Day for anyone in uniform is significant, but you'll find since the early '90s with Bosnia, Haiti, and recently Afghanistan, it's no longer only remembrance of the past so much, but knowing we're now in the same sphere as the past," said Col. Chris Whitecross.

She said she believes soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces have been affected by a growing number of nationally televised military funerals over the past year.

"You'd be hard pressed to find someone in uniform who hasn't known someone who has died or been injured on a mission," she said.

Capt. Conrad Schubert, information officer for the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group in Yellowknife, also sees a shift in perception of what Nov. 11 means.

"Remembrance Day has in the past been looked at more for older veterans in long ago wars," he said. "This year, it has a bit more relevance for people now that some of the veterans are our own age."

But still, the older veterans will be remembered, especially by Master Cpl. Ron During. He will lay a special wreath for his grandfather Vince During at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Yellowknife on Nov. 11.

"My grandfather passed away this year, and he served in Korea," he said.

Capt. Tracey Whitten said she believes all Canadian soldiers who have died are important to remember, whether the death occurred in 1915, 1943, 1951 or 2006.

"A loss of life is a loss of life," she said.

All Yellowknife-stationed soldiers interviewed for this story said they appreciate the Canadian public's support as of late, but some wish the interest was more sustainable.

"It's a shame that it's taken Afghanistan for the Canadian people to recognize what the military does," said Sgt. Mike Wendehorst. "Canadian soldiers risking their lives is nothing new. Just look at Bosnia, Haiti and the Persian Gulf."

Capt. Brian Wilitchire said he gauges the shift in support through various campaigns across the nation.

"The support by Canadians has risen significantly in the last year," he said. "Just look at the number of Support the Troops bumper stickers out there. But really, our roles haven't changed much in the past ten years."

Joint Task Force North will have members performing ceremonies across the NWT on Nov. 11.

In Yellowknife, the military headquarters and the Legion will come together to remember fallen soldiers of the past and present.