There are nearly 750,000 Canadian Forces and RCMP Veterans; 100,000 Canadian Forces members (Regular and Reserve Forces) and 23,000 members of the RCMP.Doing the math, you get approximately 900,000 and growing. Call it a million for the sake of convenience and you find that 1 in 35 Canadians is a veteran.
If that number seems high, think about how you define a veteran. To many people, a veteran is someone from WWII or Korea. Yes, those men are veterans. But they are not the ONLY veterans. In fact, WWII and Korea service personnel only account for 11 per cent of the total veteran population.
Some argue that combat is what defines a veteran. Think about that for a minute and you’ll realize that such a definition overlooks all the logistics, support, medical, and other personnel. Think about all the aircraft mechanics required in WWII — are they not veterans? Of course they are.
There are all the peacekeeping missions — 33 so far. Let’s not forget that peacekeeping doesn’t mean picket duty; some of those missions were so close to war that only legal definitions can make the distinction. On top of that is the witnessing of genocide in Rwanda, the Balkans, and other places, usually with the inability to respond and defend the victims. Peacekeepers are some of the most scarred of all veterans, but the wounds are often mental.
Don’t forget all the Cold War veterans either: those men and women who trained constantly for Iron Curtain to be overrun, for Soviets pouring over the pole, for full-scale invasion of North America. Remember the Atomic Veterans; those who participated in A-bomb tests and cleaning up nuclear spills. There are all the veterans who never went outside of Canada, but nonetheless served us: doing search and rescue, disaster relief, defending our boarders at sea and in the arctic — countless missions within Canadian territory yet far from the troop’s homes. And — last but not least — there are the Afghanistan veterans.
Don’t overlook the RCMP either. Many Canadians forget that the Mounted is a paramilitary organization. They aren’t so much a police force as a home guard. While they handle policing and security, they serve under almost identical rules to the Forces. They also get sent all over the world: South Sudan, the West Bank, Haiti, the DRC, and yes, Afghanistan as well. Remember when there was a big fuss made about the end of combat operations and the transition to training Afghan police? Guess who got that job? Plus the Mounted also does a lot of high-risk, death-defying work at home in search and rescue, border patrol, maintaining a presence in the remotes corners of our nation.
Of course, part of the problem with understanding that figure has to do with semantics. How do you define “veteran”? We can all give examples of veterans. Even veterans sometimes have trouble figuring it out. I frequently get questions like ‘I served for 10 years but was never sent overseas. Am I a veteran?’ Yes, yes you are.
It has taken Our Duty a long time to distill down the different kinds of service, find the common ground, and render this clear, concise definition:
“A veteran is anyone who took an oath to be ordered to die for Canada — generally in the Forces or RCMP. Becoming a veteran takes place at the time of the oath.”
God Bless and keep reading