Remembering ‘Service’


Amidst talk of Canada losing its innocence after the recent attacks in on Parliament Hill, there has also been concern that Canada is becoming too much like America. After participating in combat in Afghanistan and joining the U.S. led coalition air-strikes on ISIS, Canada has firmly displayed its commitment to combat since the 1990’s, when peacekeeping was the primary focus of operations in the Canadian Armed Forces. Despite this “loss of innocence,” the Canadian Military has gained a more central place in the public consciousness and unlike the U.S., has maintained the integrity of its sacred day for Veterans.

Unlike Canada, the U.S Veterans Day has been colonized by consumer culture. A simple Google search on ‘Veterans Day sales’ yields countless hits on this “early black Friday.” A site called entices consumers with a brand-tapestry of sale-items. The CEO of Starbucks criticized the treatment of Veterans on this day. At an event for Veterans at The Washington Post, he stated that  Veterans Day “has been turned into a weekend sale.” He adds: “We have to ask ourselves, what kind of nation are we? What kind of nation do we want to be?”

In Canada, this is not the case. We refuse not to allow the sacredness of this day from being overshadowed by market interests. This has been particularly evident in the backlash against Christmas decorations before Remembrance Day. Also, in 2010 a U.S retailer started a weeklong Remembrance Day sale that was met with protests from Veterans and civilians alike. Lastly, do a Google search using the phrase ‘remembrance day sale’ and you will be met with a very different result. Top hits include news about the record-breaking poppy sales and more talk about how a “US Retailer Advertises Tacky ‘Remembrance Day Sale’ For Canadian Affiliates.”

As a nation, we’ve maintained the integrity of our sacred day for Veterans. On this day, we remember the true meaning of ‘service’. In an age jam-packed with emphasis on ‘customer service,’ we reserve a space to reflect on the highest form of civil service.

Core principals of military service include duty, loyalty, integrity, and courage. In an age where the ‘call of duty’ has turned into a videogame, and ‘loyalty’ has been replaced by ‘brand loyalty’, we remember that ‘service’ means commitment to a larger moral/ collective cause, rather than what customer-service representatives do for the purpose of increasing corporate profits. We remember that loyalty is more than brand commitment.

We remember not for the sole purpose of just remembering – as some people go to church just for the sake of going. We remember because their sacrifices demonstrate an ideal model of ‘service’; a form of service we can’t live without; a form of service that binds us together like a group huddled for warmth amidst a blustery winter of market individualism.

On this day, the politics surrounding Canada’s combat engagements take a back-seat to the sacred ideal we’ve managed to preserve. On this day, we remember the sacrifices of those who have served in the military. In this way, we remember the true meaning of ‘service’.

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  1. I just really hope that Canada will always maintain this moral quality by which we understand that a holiday such as Remembrance Day should be set aside for what its name implies, and not as just another day of frivolous shopping.

  2. We have a long history of service to our country in our family. As Americans who are proud of our servicemen and honor and respect those who have given so much, we are abhorred by the commercialism of any patriotic holiday. The businesses here commercialize everything from holidays to sporting events. Personally, I boycott any exploitation of this sort. It is good to hear that Canada hasn’t succumbed to the pressure by businesses who are only seeking more ways to pad their pockets.

  3. It is true that we in America tend to make every holiday a consumer event. It’s sad, and not something I’m happy about. My dad, a veteran, used to march in every Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day parade until he became too ill to do so. My husband is a Vietnam vet. I’m proud of the veterans, and salute them as well as our allied soliders all over the world.

    You have a fine site.

  4. An really interesting and slightly troubling post. From the UK we have – as I am sure you are aware – a very different attitude towards the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, particularly in the centenary year of the outbreak of WW1. And many will have seen the news coverage of the artistic memorial at The Tower of London, with the moat filled with ceramic poppies. I have seen friends in Commonwealth countries commemorating the day with poppies, those in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and many more. But maybe there is hope for the de-commercialisation of veterans day in the US – I have seen a number of my American friends displaying the poppy on their Facebook statuses (did you know it was the American’s who started the use of the poppy in this way?) and have repeated calls for it to be recognised the same way as many other old allied countries do. Let us hope that “Remembrance Day Sale” is a phrase that we, the people who remember for the right reasons, can stamp out.

  5. Thank goodness Australia doesn’t have Remembrance Day sales! I think many in our society are afraid to discuss or consider the actual connection between military service and sacrifice. It seems that people do not realise or want to know that some of our soldiers will die when on military service.

  6. Commercializing Veterans’ Day is a shameful and disgusting exploitation. My town has flags lining Main Street. Our green is decorated to honor the vets and there are many veterans there , giving us the opportunity to stop and thank them for their service. Consumerism and commercialism here have loud and ugly voices that are heard around the world , how awful that is.

  7. Great write! I am also impressed with the tactful comments generated by your post.
    We will remember. We will never forget. Thank goodness we don’t treat this day of honour like a day of shopping.
    Thanks so much for the follow!

  8. As an American, the use of Veterans Day as another big sale day, offends me. My father did not land at Omaha beach to give future people a chance to go to the stores and rack up values. He did land at Omaha beach to give them the right to choose between honoring the brave veterans or to dishonor their bravery. I thank all those who give their all, in all branches of the armed forces who give their all for all of us.

  9. Sadly you are correct about the U.S. with consumerism. But some of us know what this day is about. That’s why I wrote what I did and thank you for visiting. I would wish you good luck on your dissertation but you are vey well spoken and I know you will do right by the Canadian military

  10. Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses and commented:
    I am an American who remembers the Veterans and Active Soldiers in my family, country and folks the world over for their sacrifices. Let’s hope all these wars, Western Alliance Coups, and regime changes stop. There is a person on the other side of that weapon. Often times the innocent.

  11. At least in a subconscious way; curious younger or older consumers now that they can “google it,” just may inform themselves by what they find on Wikipedia, YouTube and Blogs. So, the holes in their primary, secondary or college education are filled in. That’s how folks stay connected to their roots and patriotism.

  12. When you are right, you are right. It is embarrassing for a lot of us, but the shoppers outnumber us I’m sorry to say. If you studied the consumer culture in the US, the top of your head would probably explode. Thank you for remembering this really important day.

  13. I know that Remembrance Day in Canada is treated as a solemn and reverend day, and really didn’t realize the difference with the US Veteran’s Day until reading your post. Come to think of it I have seen recent things in social media with regards to ‘special sales’… re Veteran’s Day.. Diane

  14. Outrageous, I hope people continue to voice their disgust at retailers hijacking special days such as Remembrance Day. Personally, I find this day means more each year as I age, and especially more poignant as we have less Veterans left to celebrate. Shame on the money-grabbers.

  15. So sad to read that the USA has commercialised Veteran’s Day and so pleasing to hear that Canada has not. To date I have not heard of Australian retailers declaring Remembrance Day sales and this evening TV news services are full of the Shrine of Remembrance service today.

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