Veterans / Remembrance Day 2014


On this 11th of November, let’s leave my usual talks about American veterans, and visit another country for a while — and reflect on recent history.

Canada, until this past month, has been largely ignored by terrorists.  Now, as a CBC writer has suggested, some of that innocence has been lost.  “Radical” Islamists have learned how to use the tools of the modern information age to gain adherents, and these converts are found around the world.  On October 20, a driver deliberately ran his car into two members of the Canadian Army, one of whom, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent (left) from the province of Québec, later died of his injuries.  WO Vincent was planning on retiring in the near future, having served his country for nearly 30 years.

Two days later, another man, with his face wrapped in a keffiyeh to hide it, carried a loaded hunting rifle up to Canada’s National War Memorial, and there shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo (center), standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier twice before being chased off and pursued by another member of the Ceremonial Guard.  Cirillo, a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, was standing his honor post as normal, with an unloaded rifle.  Bystanders attempted to revive the corporal and administer first aid, but he died en route to the hospital.

The gunman was not over.  He managed to elude pursuit all the way up Parliament Hill and made his way into Centre Block, the location of the House of Commons and the Senate.  Neither chamber was in session, but party leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were meeting with members in caucuses in several rooms nearby.  Shots were fired, including one that wounded a security guard who tried to wrestle the rifle away from the gunman as he entered.  The shooter eventually holed up in an alcove…near the office of the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Commons.  The Sergeant-at-Arms isn’t just a ceremonial post; he is also responsible for security in the building, and Kevin Vickers (right, carrying the Mace of the House of Commons at the next House session following the shooting), emerged from his office with a loaded automatic.  Vickers, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer with nearly 30 years of experience, did a dive-and-roll from behind a column and wounded the man, who was killed moments later by others in the security team.  A few days later, when Commons resumed, Vickers was given a standing ovation as he led the Speaker’s Parade into the chamber in the normal course of his more ceremonial duties.

It’s people like this that Veterans Day is for, to honor all the living who have placed themselves in harm’s way for the safety and security of our countries, and to remember those who, placing themselves in harm’s way, have paid the last full measure of duty.  I hope you’ll join me in saluting all military today on this day of remembrance.

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