This Saturday, people across our country and the world will gather to reflect on and celebrate the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces in service to the defence of our freedom.
Although there has not been a major war that involved Canadians in recent decades, we continue to honour our veterans every year at this time, and most people still wear poppies as a symbol of respect.
Remembrance Day is usually a sombre occasion as we reflect on the millions of men and women who have given their lives, and the number of living survivors of the two World Wars, which is getting smaller as the years pass.
In recent years, with the number of World War veterans dwindling, there has been an increasing emphasis placed on a new group of veterans who have served in various conflicts over the years. One of the issues they are facing as they attempt to re-enter civilian life is post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and we, as a society, are slowly starting to come to terms with the impact this is having on their lives.
I can only imagine how veterans of the World Wars dealt with PTSD, as they came from generations that were told to keep it all inside and just go on with life; we may never know the full impact war experiences had on their families and their mental health.
They have intimate knowledge of the destructive power of these weapons and the emotional consequences of using them and having them used upon their friends and mates.
Today’s veterans have been more forthcoming and we are beginning to recognize the need to help them come to terms with the things they have seen and the things they have been called upon to do in their service to their country. The mental and emotional trauma that many of them carry is a burden that we should not minimize, and there is a lot they can teach us about what is really involved in the killing of human beings.
Veterans have been much on my mind over the past month or so, as I try to process and make some kind of sense out of the spate of mass shootings in America. The Las Vegas massacre last month was horrifying, as a sniper used military-type weapons to rain terror down upon concert-goers during the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. This past Sunday, a man shot his way into a small country church in Texas and killed at least 26 worshippers, many of them children and many of them related. While details are still emerging as of this writing, it appears he also used an automatic weapon in the commission of his crime.
It is hard to process how such things can take place in a civilized country and such events seem to be coming more frequently and with much heavier casualties.
This has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control, with both sides staking out their positions. While I am unable to comment on all sides of this issue, I would like to focus on the weapons that were used in these last two shootings. These types of guns were developed for use in a military setting and I wonder why it is now acceptable for them to be available for use by civilians.
I don’t know if anyone has done so, but I would like to hear the opinions of veterans who have had to use these weapons in the settings for which they were developed. They have intimate knowledge of the destructive power of these weapons and the emotional consequences of using them and having them used upon their friends and mates.
I don’t think they employed these weapons with the belief that they would then be turned upon the families and neighbours they were fighting to protect. They are the true experts in the nature and use of these guns and I think that it is time that we listened to what they have to say on this matter; respecting them for their sacrifice is not enough. We need to respect their knowledge and opinions on gun violence.
Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.