NEW GLASGOW - An air force veteran urged Canadians to put aside their differences and instead focus on serving both their country and fellow citizens at the Remembrance Day ceremony in New Glasgow Saturday.
Michael Simmons, who served in the air force as a military policeman from 1952 to 1980, was posted throughout Canada, Cold War-era Western Europe and the Middle East.
“Stand tall as a Canadian. Stand tall, shoulder-to-shoulder with each other and don't look at each other [for] what colour you are, what language you speak, but look at them as Canadians,” said Simmons in his Remembrance Day address at the Cenotaph.
He spoke in front of several hundred people gathered around the Cenotaph, including members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Nova Scotia Highlanders, Army Cadets, police, firefighters and others.
Simmons reminded his audience that those veterans who fought and died in both world wars and later conflicts fought for a vision of unity, and it was now up to the today’s generation to carry the torch forward.
“We shall survive and we owe them the debt,” said Simmons.
He also told The News that Canada’s federal government must set aside politics and make sure that Canada’s military has the equipment it needs “to get the job done.”
But Simmons said the military is a still solid career choice for Canadians – and his message for anyone thinking about it was simple.
“Go for it. It’s a good life.”
While the Canadian military ended its combat mission in Afghanistan three years ago and has also halted more recent airstrikes against ISIS, it still faces heavy peacetime demands.
Canadian troops are currently stationed in Eastern Europe under Operation Reassurance, which aims to deter a Russian attack on NATO member states.
This includes naval vessels taking part in NATO military exercises in the Black Sea near Ukraine, as well as the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas.
Canadian ground forces are stationed in Latvia as part of a wider NATO force to deter Russia.
The air force also has four CF-18 Hornet fighter jets stationed in Romania to help defend that country’s airspace.
Canada and its NATO partners beefed up troop levels in Eastern Europe after Russian forces seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.
Since then, Vladimir Putin’s government has backed pro-Moscow insurgents in their fight against Ukrainian forces.