So many Canadian heroes, so many to thank
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.