Don’t Forget the Afghanistan Veterans

I find Remembrance Day to be one of the most moving times of the year. It has had an impact on me ever since I was a child and stood at a cenotaph and watched wreathes being laid. One of the things I have noticed is that we tend to emphasize veterans of the Second World War. I know that I love talking to WWII veterans and to hear about their experiences.

But they are not the only veterans. We should not forget about the veterans of the Korean War and other conflicts since that time. But I want to focus here on veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

Until recently, I was a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces reserves. There were a number of times that I found myself the only one in the room who had not served in Afghanistan. I was able to hear their stories and get a sense of their pain. Unlike other veterans who have had decades to work through their experiences, the impact of Afghanistan on these veterans was still fresh.

You may not realize it, but you probably pass by Afghanistan veterans all the time. Even if you are not around people who are active in the regular forces, you probably interact with people who have released from the military or who are currently serving in the reserves. These men and women may be students at your university, coworkers at your place of employment or customers of your business. There may be nothing about them that would tip you off that they had served in Afghanistan.

These veterans may or may not have been physically injured. They likely witnessed the death of those they served with as well as civilians. They experienced hyper-vigilance, not knowing when a bomb would go off in an unexpected location. Some will have PTSD, while others will have been affected in other ways.

We may not know the battles that were fought in Afghanistan the way we know the famous battles fought in the First and Second World Wars, but to those involved, they were just as important.

So make sure to shake the hand of that elderly veteran of World War Two, but at the same time, say a prayer for those many Afghanistan veterans whose stories you may never hear.

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