Vietnam War veterans deserve recognition

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

As Remembrance Day approaches, the Wilfrid Laurier community has begun to demonstrate their support by wearing poppies with pride.

Most students, faculty and administration members understand the importance of remembering the deeds of our veterans. Honouring those who fought in The First World War, The Second World War, the Korean War and the war in Afghanistan.

I am proud that our country acknowledges our veterans for their contributions in these conflicts, but I cannot help noticing a missing group: Canadian Vietnam veterans.

When the United States increased its involvement in South Vietnam during the 1960s, Canada declared neutrality and declined America’s request to send troops.

Although Canada was not a direct participant, many Canadians believed the war in Vietnam was important enough to deserve their support.

Since Canada refused to send any military forces, approximately 30,000 Canadians crossed the border to enlist within the United States Army.

By the end of the war over 100 Canadians had given their lives for a cause they strongly believed in.

Unfortunately, the Canadian government objects to acknowledging these fallen men or their fellow veterans.

Canadian Vietnam veterans have been excluded from Remembrance Day ceremonies on the basis that Canada cannot recognize veterans of a war which it did not officially support.

Although Canada was not a direct participant of the Vietnam War, I disagree with the notion that Canadian Vietnam veterans should be excluded from our Remembrance Day ceremonies.

These men represented Canadian support for their ally even when our government did not.

Even though our government does not officially recognize these veterans, some individuals have taken it upon themselves to remember Canadians who fought alongside Americans in Vietnam.

In 1995 the Michigan Association of Concerned Veterans acquired land in Windsor, Ontario for the erection of the North Wall memorial.

The black granite monument is inscribed with the names of the Canadians who died in Vietnam as well as those who went missing in action.

In addition to the North Wall, Canadian veterans have continued to support each other.

Organizations including the Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association in Manitoba and L’Association Québecoise des Vétérans du Vietnam in Quebec offer that support. These groups hold numerous events to demonstrate their support for one another.

Although such organizations are an excellent support system, Canadian society as a whole needs to assist our Vietnam veterans.

Support for their cause can be as simple as choosing to remember them, not only on Remembrance Day but every day.

Just because our government has decided not to include them in our remembrance ceremonies does not mean we are powerless to make the active choice to recognize them.

The next step is becoming more knowledgeable about Canada’s past.

Read an article or book about our role in the Vietnam War and discover the stories of Canadians who fought in the United States military to acquire a further understanding of their experiences and reasons for volunteering.

Once our society becomes more aware of Canadian Vietnam veterans, we can begin to demand more from our government by officially recognizing their contributions.

As Canadian citizens we must not abandon nor forget this important group.

So this Sunday at 11 o’clock when we all take our moments of silence, do not forget these veterans.

They deserve acknowledgment and gratitude like all the other veterans we remember on this day.

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