In my 4 years of reserve service, I have never witnessed so much outright support for the Canadian military as I have since the Ottawa shooting. Before this, most conversations I had with anybody outside the military involved their personal opinion on Afghanistan, which was largely negative. The immediate reaction to the death of Cpl. Cirillo actually shocked me in light of past sentiments. The people of Hamilton built a monument made of flowers to this fallen soldier right in front of the Hamilton Armouries. There was overwhelming involvement from Canada in general when they brought Cirillo home along the highway of heroes. Everyone all of a sudden had sympathy and condolences to offer active members of the Forces, from classmates to intoxicated gentlemen on James Street at odd hours of the morning.
It all seemed a little sensationalist. And that concerns me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am deeply pleased with the public’s reaction. Every bit of support for Cirillo’s family and his unit was fantastic. That being said, I am worried that everyone’s staunch patriotism and appreciation that they displayed on the 24th of October, when people lined the streets to see Cirillo’s motorcade, will fade into either complacency or the typical shade of disdain.
In my experience, part of the reason that people become unappreciative of military personnel is that they fail to understand the difference between decision makers and regular workers. Asking me to bring home the troops from Afghanistan while I’m waiting for my bus to go home after work is likely not the best forum for your comments on foreign policy changes. Why? I’m a corporal in the army reserve. My area of influence within the Canadian Forces is limited. Talking to me is like demanding that a cashier at Wal-Mart fix their company’s policy on foreign labour because you disagree with the idea of sweatshops.
In my opinion, the key to this great outbreak of patriotism is the treatment of soldiers as individuals rather than part of the corporate structure. The people of Canada were exposed to an individual versus an establishment, and they beamed with pride at the service of the individual. People forgot about their personal stances on Afghanistan and F-35s, and they took the time to celebrate the service and life of an individual.
Reservists are people who give up their time to train for contingencies that scare them. Here in Hamilton, there is no contingent of regular force military members, which means that most of the soldiers you see have regular day jobs, or they go to school full time. I’m not saying that you should go up to them and thank them for their great sacrifice, but when you see a soldier, try to see their individual willingness to step into a conflict so that the citizens of Canada can continue a free and unharassed existence. You don’t have to agree with the government’s decisions to appreciate the sacrifice of an individual.