Roly Russell. Photo: Laurie Tritschler

Remember that they got us to where we are today

A letter by MLA Roly Russell

At cenotaphs across the province, and indeed the nation, Nov. 11 will be a day of remembering and reflection. When I see the poppies appearing again on people’s jackets, or when I wear my own, I think of those that were lost to violent conflicts over the decades. More abstractly, I think of the commitment of individuals to the values of “us,” even when it comes at the expense of the “me.”

War, from my inexperienced position, seems like a messy business, full of trauma and with ultimately high stakes for both individuals and societies. And while I certainly cannot fathom what it must have been like for those that served, I have a glimmer of understanding of the commitment that they made and the dedication that they had to fight for a cause greater than their own selves. That that commitment took the lives of so many souls full of energy and vitality is painful and worth remembering.

My remembering on Nov. 11, of course, isn’t confined to those that lost their lives. I also reflect on those who are still with us who’ve lost some part of themselves, emotionally or physically, to war. I find myself remembering, and commemorating, those people that selflessly dedicated themselves to the safety of all of us, as a collective, in other capacities. The act of stepping forward to take on personal responsibility for what we believe is the societal good is a noble act.

I would be remiss not to highlight the prevalence of mental health impacts upon those people putting our collective needs above their own. The stories of mental health impacts have become more and more painfully evident over the decades. So, I hope that we also use this Nov. 11 to remember, and perhaps reach out, to some of those around us that did not lose their lives but have nonetheless suffered at length and sacrificed immensely in less visible ways.

To be clear: I detest war. I dislike violence in essentially all contexts. But Nov. 11, for me, is not about taking a position on violence. It’s about setting that aside and paying respect for those that have sacrificed for all.

So let’s keep remembering those we’ve lost, and also remembering the non-fatal sacrifices that so many have made for us. Lest we forget that so many have sacrificed so much to help get us to where we are today.

— Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen