Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – November 12, 2012

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  • Remembering (1)  PM Remembers in Hong Kong  “They are among the Canadian soldiers buried farthest from home. But here, in the tidy Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery, with its manicured lawns, they are not forgotten.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to this solemn hillside cemetery Sunday to pay tribute to Canada’s war dead, including troops killed in the early days of the Second World War on the Pacific front lines as Japan launched its forces across the region.  Speaking to a crowd of visitors, dignitaries and military veterans from across the years, he recounted how the 1,975 Canadian troops stationed here mounted a “courageous, desperate and bloody” defence of Hong Kong in 1941, paying a sacrifice made plain by the row upon row of headstones.  “Here they are laid, nearly three hundred of them,” the prime minister said ….” – more of the PM’s statement here, and more on Canadians in Hong Kong during WW2 here.
  • Remembering (2)  Defence Minister Remembers in Afghanistan  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, concluded a visit to Afghanistan (yesterday). During his visit, Minister MacKay met with senior Canadian Forces officers and Afghan officials, and attended a Remembrance Day Ceremony with Canadian military members serving on Operation Attention, Canada’s contribution to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan …. During his visit, Minister MacKay also had an opportunity to meet with Canadian troops during a barbecue held in honour of Remembrance Day ….”
  • Remembering (3)  From the Veterans Affairs Minister’s message:  “…. Canadians remember the men and women from all branches of the armed forces and all walks of life who have served our country with courage and dedication in peace and in war.  More than 2.3 million Canadians have served our country since Confederation; there are so many individuals we can pause to remember.  The men and women who have served our great country gave selflessly for our freedom, and one way we repay them is by remembering their sacrifices. Remembrance Day is also an occasion to pay tribute to Veterans’ families and other loved ones who have sacrificed so much for us.  Veterans helped build the Canada we know and love. They gave everything they had for everything we have today. We are proud of what Veterans have accomplished for the protection of our country and the promotion of our Canadian values of peace, democracy, and the rule of law around the world.  All Canadians—young and old—should be inspired to take the time to remember those who gave so much without ever questioning the cost ….”
  • Remembering (4)  Joint Statement from Defence, Vets Affairs Ministers:  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Associate Minister of National Defence issued the following statement today on Remembrance Day:  “When the guns fell silent on the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918, the world sighed with relief that its bloodiest war was over, and prayed that it would never happen again. People rejoiced in peace, celebrated their survival, and turned to mourning their dead.  The First World War left a large hole in the fabric of Canada. At the time, we numbered a mere eight million people, yet nearly 620,000 served in the Canadian Forces. Of that number, more than 66,600 gave their lives and another 172,950 were wounded. Nearly one of every ten Canadians who fought in the war did not return, and those who did carried with them the physical and emotional scars of a terrible four years spent in a muddy hell.  The impact of the First World War – not only to those who served, but to their friends and families – was so wounding to the national psyche that, every year, we still pause to remember Canada’s war dead at the moment the guns fell silent almost a hundred years ago ….”
  • Remembering (5)  Every November for over 10 years now, a white “peace poppy” has joined the traditional red one on Teresa Gagne’s lapel. The Royal Canadian Legion thinks the white poppies are disrespectful.  The white poppy symbolizes the mourning of civilian deaths in war, the environmental devastation war causes, rejection of war as a tool for social change, and a call for peaceful conflict resolution.  “The best thing we can do for veterans — the ones who died and the ones who are serving — is to try to end war,” Gagne said.  She first heard about white poppies over a decade ago, though they originated in Britain in 1926. At first, she made her own. Now she orders them from the Peace Pledge Union in Britain, which makes them, to distribute them through Vancouver Peace Poppies.  Gagne said the white poppies attract a lot of curiosity.  “People were very interested, very supportive.”  But the Royal Canadian Legion, which raises money for veterans by selling red poppies, isn’t happy about the white version. Joanne Henderson, poppy fund coordinator for B.C. and the Yukon, felt the white poppy was disrespectful because it causes confusion.  “Our red poppy not only represents remembrance but also represents the peace that we’ve been able to enjoy today,” she said.  “I don’t think that there’s a better symbol of peace than the red poppy.” ….”
  • Remembering (6)  Remembering the Repatriated in Trenton  “Families of Canadian soldiers gathered here for a moving ceremony, as the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial was unveiled Saturday.  A bell tolled as Air Cadets read the names of the 158 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Their names are engraved on the memorial, located just a few metres from the Highway of Heroes.  For many family members, it was the first time they returned to Trenton since attending their loved ones’ repatriation ceremonies, which take place here. There were about 250 family members in attendance.  Dozens of soldiers who served in Afghanistan were also at the ceremony to remember their fallen comrades. They joined the ranks of about 2,500 people at the event ….”
  • Joshua Baker, 1985-2010, R.I.P.  An Armed Forces officer will face a court martial hearing beginning Tuesday in the 2010 death of Cpl. Josh Baker and the injury of four other soldiers on a training range in Afghanistan.  Major Darryl Watts, who at the time held the rank of captain and was the platoon commander, is charged with one count of manslaughter, two counts of breach of duty, one count of unlawfully causing bodily harm, and two counts of negligent performance of a military duty, the Department of National Defence said on its site late Friday.  Baker, 24, of Edmonton, who was with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, was killed Feb. 12, 2010 at a training range about 4 km north of Kandahar City while detonating an explosive device known as a claymore ….” – more here.
  • Afghanistan  “…. Hubris, ambition, self-interest. Wars have been fought for less. In Afghanistan, there were other considerations, too. It was a failed state, where terrorists trained and plotted and threatened a country, a region, the entire world. Canada spent enormous sums and spilled blood in the attempt to remove those threats and beat back and insurgency, to save lives.  Question the mission, the outcomes, but never the effort. The long road that Canadians started hasn’t ended; it’s up to Afghans to finish the job.”
  • Don’t expect promises of a tricked out Canadian military loaded with more of the latest gadgets to come to pass in the next 20 years, said a University of Ottawa professor as he peered into the forces’ future.  “If they remain committed to buying expensive items in a stagnant budget there is less money for other things,” said Paul Robinson, a military expert with the university’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. “They say they don’t plan to cut personnel, it makes you wonder where they will get the money from.” ….” – more along the same lines here.
  • Three times he crawled though barbed wire as German machine guns rattled death above, ignoring his wounds to carry grenades that would save his brigade from annihilation.  Much is known about how Lieutenant Milton Gregg became a hero, one of only 94 Canadians awarded a Victoria Cross, a medal so rare it has sold for $400,000 at auction.  But what became of that Victoria Cross — that’s become an unsolved crime whose origins were in a military museum in London.  “They took something that was sacred,” Lt.-Col. John Fife said.  Fife was once commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment, whose storied history includes only two Victoria Crosses. When Gregg died in 1978, his family donated his medals to the regimental museum at Wolseley Barracks in London.  Seventeen months later, on Christmas morning 1979, duty officer Andrew Butters was wakened to awful news. Someone had stolen the Victoria Medal.  “I was shocked that someone would have the audacity to steal something like that,” Butters recalled.  Now, Fife is determined to find the medal — the search is on again.  “Come forward, no questions asked, and do the right thing by returning these medals so they can be displayed for future generations to see and learn about this great Canadian, great New Brunswicker and great member of The Royal Canadian Regiment,” said Fife ….”

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12 November 12 at 9:00

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