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Young people put action at forefront of Remembrance Day

It’s that time of year again, when people I respect begin squabbling over whether or not it’s too early to be decking the halls and making merry. In theory, I agree; early November is too soon for me to be hearing Christmas carols in the mall and being blasted with festive specials. I have no intention of digging out our holiday décor for weeks; as my children reminded me when I told them to be sure to put on their winter gear, it is still fall, after all. But I’m not waiting because of Remembrance Day.

Decorating for the holidays is not dishonouring our military. Ignoring Remembrance Day is dishonouring them. Kim Mills is a military wife, a mother of three, and a writer whose words resonate. She sums up the debate over decorating or not between Halloween and Remembrance Day as such: “When you decorate is not as important as what you remember … By making this our biggest focus, we are risking that in 50 years the only thing people will know about November 11th is that it’s the day before we can decorate for Christmas.”

There is hope her prediction will not come true, though.

Historica Canada routinely polls the public in advance of Remembrance Day. This year, about 40% of Canadians say they plan to attend a service, up nearly 10% from last year. The 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918 likely plays a part in the increased numbers, but the upswing is encouraging, nonetheless. What was even more hopeful to me was the poll’s finding that the age group most likely to attend an official service this year are Millennials, those now 18 to 34 years old, at 41 percent. The Gen X’ers, those ages 35 to 54, are the least likely to making it out to an official service, with just 38 percent saying they plan to attend. The rate rises to 40 percent among those 55 and older.

To me, this shows that younger Canadians are conscious of the power of actions. They are less likely to wear a poppy than older citizens, but they understand the importance of taking time out of their day to observe Remembrance Day. There’s also a good chance many of these Millennials have a closer understanding of service and sacrifice than those who grew up in the 60s, 70s, and 80s; these are the children of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, a mission in which 160 Canadian lives, military and civilian, were lost.

If decorating now brings you joy, please, do it without shame. Science says you might even be making the smarter, happier choice! If waiting is your preference, that’s wonderful, too. Maybe more public spaces can take their lead from the Manitoba grocery store that has invited patrons to fill its seasonal shelves with photos of their personal military heroes.

My wish for all of us this year, whether we’re busy spreading Christmas cheer through our homes or waiting to decorate, is to join together in respecting the solemnity of 11am on November 11. This is not an occasion to argue or to push our beliefs on one another; it is our moment to honour those who have chosen a life of sacrifice for the betterment of all. It is an opportunity to educate ourselves, our family, and our friends about the ongoing conflicts and deployments in which our military is engaged, a chance to discuss the impacts of past wars on our lives today, and a moment for us to come together as a county and reflect on what common values and goals we hold dear.

A version of this post appeared originally in the Times & Transcript. Click here for more of Jenna Morton’s column, She Said.

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