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'It reminds you of the things you’ve experienced': Veteran reflects on what Remembrance Day means

It’s an anniversary, recognizing the end of the First World War. It’s also, historically, been a chance for communities to gather and think about how much they lost.

But Remembrance Day is not a celebration, especially for those who intimately know the people we’re all remembering, says veteran Brian Macdonald.

“There is a certain amount of stress that comes with Remembrance Day, you know, because, it reminds you of the things you've experienced,” he said.

“It reminds you of the things that your friends have experienced. I spend Remembrance Day surrounded by friends that are veterans, and a lot of them have a real hard emotional time at Remembrance Day because it is so, so personal to them.”

MacDonald’s deployments include Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He spends a lot of his time now with fellow veterans – from Second World War, to modern day conflicts.

“I've been lucky to know some Second World War veterans. A lot of people do. But it's their parents and their grandparents and sometimes their great grandparents. So it's a distant connection. And we're about to lose that entirely because that generation is passing. And so really, it's a new generation of veterans that are that are focused on Remembrance Day,” he said.

Robert Huish, an associate professor within Dalhousie University’s International Development department, said the origins of Remembrance Day date back over 100 years ago.

It was started by the communities who lost so many of their own – not the federal government.

“These were communities that had generations, a generation wiped out, small communities Atlantic Canada, Ontario, even into western Canada, whose younger population didn't come back,” he said.

And that tradition has remained steadfast.

But there is a difference between the treatment of today’s veterans, and those last generation, Huish said.

“Modern day war veterans haven't been getting the same level of respect, and there's a lot more challenges that they've been facing. And that sort of public enthusiasm and government support hasn't been there in the same level that it was towards the end of World War Two,” Huish said.

Macdonald agrees, saying he’s been deeply concerned about one particular issue.

“There's a tremendous amount of veterans that are now without homes and that's a real concern. And that number seems to be growing. It's really disturbing,” he said.

He says, for those who’ve served, they remember every day, not just on Nov.11.

As of March 31, the Canadian War Service veteran population – which includes Second World War and Korean War Veterans – is estimated to be 9,297 nationwide.

The total number of veterans, including the Canadian Armed Forces, in the Maritimes as of March 31:

  • Prince Edward Island: 3,581
  • Nova Scotia, 32,620
  • New Brunswick: 19,950

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