We honour all veterans on Nov. 11

With so many Legions and Remembrance Day commemorations throughout our Crowfoot Riding, it is impossible for me to get to each one. I do manage to attend numerous gatherings throughout Veterans’ Week and deliver the message of support for our veterans and troops from the Government of Canada and our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Steven Harper.

From the First and Second World Wars, to the Korean War, to the mission in Afghanistan and numerous peacekeeping assignments, our troops have always stood up for Canadian values – fighting with bravery, courage and dedication. We pay tribute to the bravery and unwavering determination of those soldiers who lost their lives in battles past, and we recognize the Canadian soldiers who are working to defend Canadian values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

But wars are not only a challenge for soldiers abroad. They also impact those left behind. While heroic Canadians risk their lives overseas, mothers, fathers, wives and children wait patiently on home soil for their loved ones to return.

All of these thoughts took on a more tangible meaning when with a heavy heart I stood on Juno Beach – where during World War II on June 6, 1944, 574 men of the 3rd Canadian Division were wounded and 340 were killed. As the chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, I had been asked to represent Canada in France and Belgium to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Also, this past June, as the chair of the Special Committee on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, I had the privilege of travelling to Afghanistan and met many of the 2,800 Canadians who are performing the difficult ‘hands-on’ work of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. I shook their hands and thanked them for their selfless and seemingly tireless efforts on our behalf. I assured them of our prayers for God’s protection and mercy.

This year, our Conservative government showed our support for veterans and local Legion branches in advance of Remembrance Day by announcing a 100 per cent rebate of any sales tax the Royal Canadian Legion pays when they buy their poppies and wreaths from private sector suppliers. Our action recognizes the special status of poppies and wreaths as Canada’s national symbols of the contribution, courage and sacrifices of those brave men and women who serve and have served in Canada’s armed forces. The proposed rebate is retroactive to January 1, 2010 to cover any sales tax GST/HST on the current year’s poppies and wreaths acquired by the Royal Canadian Legion.

During Veterans’ Week, we are thankful for the men and women, past and present, who have sacrificed to keep Canada both safe and free. We honour all of those who were and are willing to place themselves in harm’s way in order to stand up for what’s right and protect the values Canadians hold dear. Lest we forget.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail sorenk1@parl.gc.ca.