So many Cana­dian he­roes, so many to thank

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Opinion - DALE FER­REL

War is hell. Into that hell, over the cen­turies, mil­lions of young men and some­times young women chose to set their reg­u­lar, nor­mal lives aside. They left be­hind fam­i­lies, friends, lovers and ca­reers and placed their lives and limbs in harms way. They fought for their coun­tries and what they be­lieved was good and worth pre­serv­ing.

In all of the tur­moil, thou­sands more went a step fur­ther. They vol­un­teered their ser­vices to friendly, neigh­bour­ing coun­tries! Al­most al­ways, they be­came the for­got­ten ones by both their own coun­tries and the ones they served.

More than 20,000 Cana­di­ans joined the United State armed ser­vices and fought in Viet­nam. Some were seek­ing work and some wanted ad­ven­ture. Oth­ers would have joined the Cana­dian forces but Canada wasn’t hir­ing. Of the 2,594,000 who served in all, 143 Cana­di­ans and 58,315 Amer­i­cans never re­turned. Mean­while, it is in­ter­est­ing to note that some 30,000 Amer­i­cans fled into Canada to avoid the draft. The Cana­dian vol­un­teers were eas­ily ac­cepted and were treated as Amer­i­cans. Some even took ad­van­tage of the G.I. Bill and re­ceived free ed­u­ca­tion. Oth­ers re­ceived some med­i­cal ben­e­fits. Many stayed in the united states.

Al­though pre­tend­ing to re­main neu­tral, Canada it­self, pro­vided $29 mil­lion in aid to South Viet­nam. At least 500 Cana­dian firms sold $2 1/2 bil­lion worth of war ma­te­rial and $10 bil­lion worth of food to the Amer­i­cans. We even al­lowed the her­bi­cide Agent Or­ange to be tested at CFB Gage­town in New Brunswick. Amer­i­can bomber pi­lots trained in North­ern Al­berta and Saskatchewan be­fore go­ing on to car­pet bomb North Viet­nam. Af­ter the war, Canada ad­mit­ted 5,600 South Viet­namese in 1975 and 1976.

In other wars, Cana­di­ans also served with the Nile Ex­pe­di­tion to Su­dan and on both sides dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War, and the Span­ish Civil War.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, while Amer­ica was still neu­tral, many of their cit­i­zens crossed the bor­der to join the Cana­dian Armed forces. In par­tic­u­lar, many were in­volved in Canada’s Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth Air train­ing Plan. The train­ing for thou­sands of air­men took place at 107 lo­ca­tions that were backed up by 184 sup­port units. Some 8,500 Amer­i­cans joined The Royal Cana­dian Air Force. Large num­bers, about 1,000 each, joined from the States of Texas and New York.

While not from an­other coun­try, many Chi­nese, Ja­panese, Indige­nous, Ital­ian. Ger­man and Ukrainian Cana­di­ans who had re­ceived less than fair treat­ment by our gov­ern­ments of the day, turned the other cheek, and served.

It is im­por­tant to note the ef­forts of Yann Castel­not, an am­a­teur his­to­rian from France, who im­mi­grated to Canada 13 years ago. He has iden­ti­fied150,000 Indige­nous sol­diers, of which 18,830 were Cana­di­ans who fought for Canada and the United states over more than a cen­tury. While well ac­cepted by their broth­ersin-arms, again, most did not re­ceive equal treat­ment af­ter their ser­vice.

Mr. Castel­not was awarded a Min­is­ter of Vet­eran Af­fairs Com­men­da­tion in 2017 for his con­tri­bu­tion to the remembrance of the sac­ri­fice and achieve­ments of vet­er­ans.

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