By Captain Karina Smith
Some will say that younger generations are careless, inconsiderate, selfish and only concerned about themselves. Many of us have heard words like disrespect, indifference and laziness to describe young people, and the suggestion that they are unable to live without the instant gratification provided to them by social media and their smartphones. But is it really the case?
One could argue that this generational stereotype has been perpetuated throughout ages by the older generation. But is it not the older generation’s responsibility to guide and mentor the young ones? It was Socrates who pointed out that “adults always complained about the behaviours of the younger generation. The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
In a 2015 Ipsos Reid poll, Canadians agreed that Remembrance Day was still relevant but they were uncertain as to how seriously the younger generation appreciated the meaning of this day for all Canadians. From that survey, only 46 per cent thought that young people understood the efforts and sacrifices made by those who gave their lives in service of their country. But what is this 46 per cent doing to change the situation?
Indeed, it is easy to generalize and put all youth in the same category. However, like anything else in this world, there’s much more to the story. The Cadet Program stands out as an example. Cadets have been part of our military heritage since the late 1800s, and learning about military values and traditions has always been an important part of the program. To this day, November is an important month for cadets across the country as it offers a unique and significant opportunity to reflect on Canada’s proud military heritage and the impact and sacrifice of generations of Canadians in defending Canadian interests and making the world a better place.
The Cadet Program invites all Canadian youth to participate in a wide variety of fun and challenging activities from learning how to sail, taking part in outdoor expeditions and learning how to fly. Through structured training, cadets also receive an education on the role, history and traditions of the Canadian Armed Forces. They learn to become active, responsible members of their communities and are encouraged to participate in activities like official ceremonies, commemorative events, candlelight vigils, volunteering to assist the Royal Canadian Legion with the annual poppy campaign, participating in battlefield tours abroad, creating gardens of remembrance, and visiting veterans.
It is through meaningful action and reflection that cadets show they are part of a generation that cares, understands and willingly pays tribute to those who came before us in service of our country. Chief Petty Officer First Class Brianna Gosse, the 2016 National Top Sea Cadet from Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 166 Fort Townshend in St. John’s, Newfoundland, believes remembering the sacrifices of our veterans is a priority for all Canadians, young and old.
“Our most important job is to remember and make sure they are not forgotten,” says Gosse. “We will be the ones growing up and we will have to teach the younger ones. The small gestures and actions we make on a daily basis are as important as the larger ones.”
When I asked Sergeant Madeleine Fairweather from 2784 The Governor General’s Foot Guards Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in Ottawa what Remembrance Day meant to her, she said respecting and honouring all the men and women who have given their lives and served our country were most important to her. “It’s about remembering their sacrifice and generosity.”
Every year, cadets are invited to attend the First Poppy Ceremony at Rideau Hall where His Excellency the Governor General of Canada, receives the first poppy. This yearly event officially launches the Royal Canadian Legion’s national poppy campaign, a special and meaningful moment for young Canadians to gain a better understanding of the importance of Remembrance Day. The Legion also has other initiatives geared towards youth to create awareness and foster the sentiment of remembrance. Much like the various youth-oriented initiatives of Veterans Affairs Canada, the Legion’s posters and literacy contests are another proof that remembering can take many forms.
Youth are well represented during the National Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa, and are involved in various aspects of the ceremony: singing in the children’s choir, serving as flag bearers, marching with the youth contingent, playing in marching bands, and assisting dignitaries with the laying of wreaths. These actions all have a tremendous impact on youth.
Brigadier-General Kelly Woiden, Commander of the National Cadet and Junior Canadian Rangers Support Group, has seen the impact first hand. “I have seen the pride and appreciation cadets demonstrate when they participate in the annual Veterans Week activities across Canada,” says Woiden. “Through small, yet meaningful, gestures and actions, cadets continuously show their respect for veterans and their sacrifices, demonstrating to all of us [that] the next generation of Canadian leaders will not forget those who gave their lives to defend values that define our great nation.”
As we approach Veterans Week 2016, there can be no doubt that Canadian youth are indeed continuing an appreciation for the meaning of Remembrance Day as well as the sacrifices and values of those who came before us in service of Canada. And while the Cadet Program embodies these values, we must all remember the importance of our role in continuing to educate youth on the proud history that has shaped our nation and the selfless actions of the generations before us. Preserving our heritage is very much a common responsibility, young and old, and as we approach Remembrance Day, I’m convinced that today’s youth have what it takes to carry on our proud tradition of remembrance. Lest We Forget.