November 11 was when the First World War ended and has since become a day when we remember those who have fallen in past global conflicts.
This year it is also a time to stand in solidarity with those defending Ukraine in its struggle against Russia.
As I write this, it has been eight months, two weeks and five days since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
And Canadians are volunteering to fight alongside the Ukrainians, including 33-year-old Saskatchewanian Joseph Hildebrand, a Canadian Forces veteran and farmer from the Herbert area.
The unit of foreign fighters he was working with was taking their wounded to a frontline medical clinic when the Russians fired upon them. Hildebrand, who served two tours in Afghanistan, was killed in the assault.
When Hildebrand applied to fight with the International Legion of Defence of Ukraine, he wrote that “the whole world needs to stand up against Putin and Russia’s aggression,” which “is the best way I can support and uphold my morals and beliefs.”
And he paid the ultimate price.
Although the International Legion of Defence of Ukraine reports to the country’s Defence Intelligence Service, it is not like joining the regular military.
Volunteers, like Hildebrand, must bring their own military kit, including a helmet and body armour.
Canadian Forces veterans hope to get Hildebrand a proper military funeral, but it is unclear if that will happen. His work in Ukraine is akin to being a mercenary, although motivated by good intentions instead of money.
The Canadian government has told people to avoid all travel to Ukraine, including for combat.
“Your safety is at high risk, particularly if you engage in active combat,” reads the federal travel advisory.
Canadian consular services are severely limited in Ukraine.
Another Canadian, Emile-Antoine Roy-Sirois, killed in Ukraine this summer, did not receive a military funeral.
And a Canadian veteran from Ottawa who was injured fighting in Ukraine was on the hook for an air ambulance bill that carried him to the safety of a neighbouring country. He had to set up a GoFundMe, as travel insurance isn’t an option when you’re doing something your government has advised against for safety reasons.
National Indigenous Veterans Day
Next year in my calendar, I will be marking National Indigenous Veterans Day on Nov. 8, which I wasn’t aware of until this year, even though it began in Winnipeg in 1994.
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The head of the Assembly of First Nations says Indigenous Veterans Day is an event all Canadians should recognize.
The day acknowledges Indigenous contributions to military service during the World Wars and other conflicts.
Members from Métis Nation-Saskatchewan and First Nations in the province marked the day this year in Batoche, northeast of Saskatoon.
Wreaths were laid at the Batoche National Métis Veterans Memorial Monument.
An Indigenous veterans service was also held at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina on Nov. 10.
And hundreds gathered at the Minto Armoury building in west Winnipeg to commemorate the day.
Veterans Canada estimates that about 12,000 Indigenous people served in Canada’s greatest military conflicts of the 20th century, with more than 500 losing their lives.
Indigenous veterans received none of the benefits afforded to other veterans, such as access to loans or free farmland for resettling, according to a 2019 report presented by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Pickles in Paris
One reader, Jeanne, wrote in to tell me about a story she heard about how a boy from Roblin, Manitoba, coveted a jar of pickles he had found in Paris after the city had been liberated in the Second World War. He was of Romanian descent, so pickles were a staple for him back home.
Left for dead
While researching this issue, I came across another Manitoba story about a teenager from Eddystone who was almost left for dead.
They gathered around and put a flashlight on my face. Now I was paralyzed – I couldn’t move my eyes, and I just stared straight ahead into the light. Then hope within me died. They could see no movement.
I could never tell you the agony and fear I felt – to be left in the mud alone. I had no way to express my frustration and desperation. I lay there in disbelief that it was all to end this way.
More Remembrance Day Stories
Here is a round-up of Remembrance Day stories from around Saskatchewan and Manitoba that you might have missed.
Five stories you may have missed from Manitoba this week
- Green hydrogen deal shows Selkirk’ leading the way’ in transition away from carbon economy
- Manitoba’s historic Tree Planting Car gets new roots
- ‘Beyond excited’: Winnipeg distillery releasing its first Canadian whisky
- Manitoba boy sent 5,000 hockey cards after his collection was stolen
- Eleven Manitobans busted for allegedly hunting illegally
Five stories you may have missed from Saskatchewan this week
- Cowessess First Nation’s solar facility near Regina now up and running
- Widely shared videos showing death in Saskatoon nightclub illustrate dark side of social media
- White Bear First Nations woman to sing national anthem at Grey Cup
- New YouTube channel showcases Saskatchewan’s beauty from above
- LGBTQ students allege mistreatment, want change at Saskatchewan Bible college
Five stories from The Flatlander archives you may have missed
- The Shiloh people, an unknown part of Prairie history
- If you are disabled in a vehicle accident…
- The Prairie Oligarchs
- Fracking – Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Poison in the lungs.
- The Spanish Flu made Winnipeg famous for ghosts, seances
Until next time…
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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,
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