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#RemembranceDay2015

Last week I posted about never missing that “teachable moment”. And well, when it comes to Canada’s military, I get all fired up. So in a typical Whimsy-esque act of overdoing it, I vowed I would write a Twitter essay to educate the  social media generation in 140 characters or less about the entire military history of Canada.

Today is Remembrance Day. And every day for the last week, I have been sharing why this day is so important. But, because I know that Twitter isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, I saved my transcript. Today, I will publish it here.

A preface: it will be overwhelming. It will be thought provoking. It will make you ask yourself why you didn’t know that some of these things had happened. And I firmly hope it makes you jump onto Wikipedia and spend the entire afternoon looking up articles on our history, because Canada is born from what I’ve written below. Without all of this, our great country would not exist.

So please don’t skip over the hard parts. Please start conversations with others. Please ask questions. And please, please, feel gratitude in your hearts for what our soldiers have given to our country.

Lest We Forget.

Wed Nov 4 — —

Beaver Wars (1660s) Iroquois (Eng) vs Huron et al (Fr); brutal, considered one of the bloodiest series of conflicts in history of NA

Battle of Quebec (1690) Fr vs Eng; Siege of QC City by Eng; leads to Fr improving QC City defences; loss of 1000+ Eng soldiers in retreat

Battle of La Prairie (1691) Eng va Fr; Eng try to take Montreal from south; repelled with sig. casualties; site now a Natl Historic Site

King William’s War (1688-97) NA theatre of 9 Yrs War; Treaty of Reswick reasserts Fr ctrl over L Can; Iroquois neutral in all conflict after

King George’s War (1744-48) Fr vs Eng; Eng capture Louisbourg; losses = 8% of Mass. adult male pop. of time; sign Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle

Battle of Carillon (1758) Eng vs Fr; 3000 casualties; Eng defeat hampers relations with Indian allies; modern flag of QC based on Fr banner

French & Indian War (1760) Eng vs Fr; Eng gains ctrl of QC province; QC Act of 1774 gives land & civil rights back to Canadians living in QC

Battle of Quebec (1775) Eng vs US; first major defeat for US during Revolutionary War; leads Carlton to punish US sympathizers in QC

Battle of Trois-Rivieres (1776) Eng vs US; last battle in QC  during Rev War; forces US off Can soil; Eng win with half # of troops as US

Thurs Nov 5 — —

War of 1812 (1812-15) UK & NA allies vs US; US declares war on UK, with NA and surrounding waters as theatre; notable Can battles include…

Battle of Queenston Heights (1812) UK & NA vs US; death of Gen Brock and heavy US losses; unsuccessful US landing on Can soil

Battle of Frenchtown (1813) UK & NA vs US; fight @ Fort Detroit ends up w/ most losses in war; Can militia stand w/o support of UK regulars

Battle of York (1813) UK & Can vs US; US capture York, push UK to Kingston in retreat; leaving Can militia behind to continue fight

Battle of the Chateauguay (1813) UK & Can & Mohawk vs US; US plan invasion of Can via St Lawrence; Can local militia turn tide of war

Battle of Crysler’s Farm (1813) UK & Can vs US; 1st major battle to be commemorated by Can army regiments; causes US to abandon St Lawrence

Battle of Lundy’s Lane (1814) UK & Can vs US; deadliest battle of war; US fall back to Fort Erie; battle mentioned in The Maple Leaf Forever

War ends w/ Treaty of Ghent; 3000+ US slaves escape, settle in NS & NB; wins of Can militia create sense of Can nationalism, military might

Fri Nov 6 ——

Rebellions of 1837; Can & US vs Rebels; uprisings for political reform lead to Province of Canada forming; leaders incl Papineau & Mackenzie

Crimean War (1853-56) NS join forces with Fr & UK; 1st Can Victoria Cross to Alexander Robert Dunn for actions @ Battle of Balaklava

Indian Rebellion (1857-58) Can joins with UK; end of East India Cpy; William Nelson Hall, 1st black Can, Victoria Cross @ Siege of Lucknow

Fenian Raids (1866-71) Irish US seek to pressure UK withdrawl from Ireland by raiding into Can; all raids fail; however, there is 1 defeat…

Battle of Ridgeway (1866) Can vs Irish US; 1st fought exclusively by Can troops & officers; defeat galvanizes support for Confederacy of Can

Fenian Raids 1st time Can modern troops KIA – Toronto’s Queens Own still exist today; militia across new country take efforts to improve

Red River Rebellion (1869-70) Can vs Metis; Red River Colony enters Can as MB; 1st Can military action @ home as Wolseley Expedition sent

North-West Rebellion (1885) Can vs Metis; trial of Riel = tension b/w Fr & Eng Can; CPR plays key role moving troops, new support for rail

Nile Expedition (1884-85) 368 Voyageurs volunteer for UK army; 1st time Can military force overseas; 16 die on mission, considered war dead

2nd Boer War (1899-1902) Can troops assist Eng in S Africa; 1st 1000 RCR soldiers sent; more join, incl privately raised Strathcona’s Horse

Cans win acclaim in war; of 8600 volunteers, 7400 Cans incl nurses serve in S Africa by end of war; several soldiers receive Victoria Cross

Between Boer War & WWI (1903-04) Can officially establishes reg military corps; Can reg navy created in 1910 to support UK Royal Navy

Note: Can officially considers Nov 11 as #RemembranceDay for Second Boer War and later. Was Jun 2, “Decoration Day” for 1st Can war heroes.

Decoration Day acknowledged Canadian fallen @ Battle of Ridgeway, Northwest Rebellion, the 2nd Boer War, and WWI. In 1931… [1/2]

Remembrance Day Act = Nov 11 as Can’s official memorial day, expels casualties of Ridgeway & NW Rebellion from nat’l memorialization [2/2]

Sat Nov 7 — —

Aug 4 1914 UK enters WWI, bringing Can automatically into war Can Expeditionary Force (CEF) raised for overseas service, mostly volunteer

Recruitment was difficult among Fr Can except for Royal 22nd Regt (“Van Doos”); eventually CEF is 293 battalions & # of ancillary units

The Can Corps formed 1915; 4 infantry div, main fighting force of CEF; Can Cavalry Bde also in France; support troops incl railway & forest

2nd Battle of Ypres (1915) Allies vs Ger; 1st engagement of 1st Can Division; 1 in 3 casualties w/ Can losses 6000+ [1/5]

Can troops hold line against 1st chlorine gas attack of the war; counterattacks used urine soaked rags to counteract effects [2/5]

Cans get rep 4 guts & determination; Arthur Currie, Bde Comd, distinguishes himself; 1st colonial force defeat Euro power on Euro soil [3/5]

LCol John Alexander McCrae writes “In Flanders Fields” during this battle; first pub Dec 1915, now recited each year on Nov 11 [4/5]

Battle of Frezenberg (May 195) Can (PPCLI) vs Ger; 700 men to 150 wounded; motto “Last of the Originals” comes from this action [5/5]

Battle of the Somme (1916); Allies vs Ger; 1 of largest battles in WWI; 1 mil KIA or wounded; most Royal Nfld Reg killed 1st day [1/3]

4 Can Divs participating by Sep; Mark 1 Tank 1st appears in battle; psych impact on Ger soldiers causes many to surrender immediately [2/3]

Can Corp suffers 25000 casualties in final phase; dev signif’t exp in tactical doctrine, infantry & artillery, & leadership under fire [3/3]

Battle of Vimy Ridge (1917); Can vs Ger; 1st time Can Corps attacks as 1 under Can only leadership; tactical victory; offensive nets… [1/4]

More land, prisoners & arms than any previous offensive; main tactic was creeping barrage, artillery strike w/ infantry progression [2/4]

BGen Edward Morrison developed artillery instruction for battle, still used today; 4 Cans receive Victoria Cross; Vimy Ridge… [3/4]

Widely maintained as start of Can nat’l identity and unity; Vimy Memorial in France largest Can overseas war memorial [4/4]

Battle of Passchendaele (1917) Can vs Ger; Can Corps relieve II Anzac Corps; battle obj to recapture town; all Can Divs participate [1/3]

Front manned by 3&4 Can Div, replaced by 1&2 Can Div b4 final assault; success gained on Nov 11 1917; cost Can Corps 15+K casualties [2/3]

9 Victoria Crosses awarded for battle; all 9 go to Cans for their actions; Memorial located in France at Passchendaele village [3/3]

Battle of Moreuil Wood (1918) Can vs Ger; Can Cavalry Bde ordered to secure woods on horseback & sabre against Ger machine guns [1/2]

Lt Gordon Flowerdew earns Victoria Cross posthumously; 2 in 3 LdSH mounted troops perish; last great cavalry charge of modern warfare [2/2]

100 Days Offensive (1918) Allies vs Ger; Battles of Amiens, Arras, Hindenberg Line, Canal du Nord, Cambrai; Can Corps suffers 46K losses

Last soldier KIA @ WWI is George Lawrence Price, Canadian, 2 mins before armistice takes place on Nov 11 @ 11am

Royal Can Navy consists of 4 ships & 2 subs; only ship lost in war is HMHS Llandovery Castle, a hospital ship, sunk by Ger U-boat

HMCS Niobe damaged Dec 1917 Halifax Explosion; wartime explosives on way to front create largest man-made explosion ever; losses = 2K dead

WWI catalyst for creation of RCAF; Can Aviation Corps formed for WWI, assumed by Can gov’t as CAF but disbanded by 1921

Britain encourages Can peacetime air force, & RCAF created 1924 to handle all flying operations in Can, incl military & civil ops

At home, Can starts conscription; of 120K raised, only 47K sent; women gain right to vote; Fr vs Eng Can tensions run high; election in 1917

The Great War establishes Can as a military force to be reckoned with; short skirmishes b/w WWI & II incl Russian Civil & Spanish Rev Wars

Sun Nov 8 — —

Can enters WWII w/ declaration of war against Ger on Sep 10 1939; CAF small, poorly equipped, & unprepared for war

Gov’t war policy = RCAF 1st Cans overseas; Defence prioritized 4 Pacific; originally limited to 1 Div & 1 Div for home defence; CAF exceeds

Over course of war, army enlisted 730,000; air force 260,000; & navy 115,000; also, 1000s of Cans served in RAF

Battle of France (1940) Can support incl 7 naval destroyers sent to Eng Channel, 60M rounds of ammo, 75K Ross rifles

Battle of Britain/The Blitz (1940) b/w 88-112 Canadian pilots served in the RAF; most went Britain on their own initiative

No 1 Sqn RCAF join Jun 1940; by Oct end of battle 23 Can pilots are killed; 1 Can Corps deploy to S of Eng

Can navy & troops defend Nfld; occupy Iceland 1940-41; play crucial role in Battle of Atlantic; RCN take 52 U-boats in Atlantic by end

Axis U-Boats did get into Can waters; 5 attacks on Can vessels recorded, 2 attacks on mainland Can coast (Bell Is & Vancouver Is)

1000s of Can also served w/ Can Merchant Navy as volunteers, providing supplies & munitions to fronts along the Atlantic

Battle of Hong Kong (1941) JP vs Allies; JP violates intl law to attack; met w/ UK, Can & Indian troops; Allies surrender [1/3]

Afterward Japanese rape & massacre POWs & civilians; 1528 Allied dead; 1689 Can POWs incl Drs & nurses [2/3]

CSM John Robert Osborn gets Victoria Cross posthumously for throwing himself on grenade, saving 10 Can troops [3/3]

Battle of Dieppe (1942) Allies vs Ger; 5000 Cans go in; 3367 Cans KIA, wounded or captured; Almost no battle objectives met [1/2]

RAF failed to lure Luftwaffe into battle; RN lost 33 landing craft, 1 destroyer; events prepare Allies for NAfrica & Normandy landings [2/2]

Invasion of Italy (1943) Op Baytown = 1 Can Div lands @ Cape Spartivento; 1 Can Armoured Bde joins in Sherman tanks; [1/4]

In constant demand by UK Comd, Can plays important role in advance N through Italy; Battles incl Potenza, Termoli, Ortona, Melfa River [2/4]

Moro River, Sicily, Arno River, Lake Trasimeno, Gari River, Hitler Ln, Gustav Ln; longest & widest service of any Bde in CAF in WWII [3/4]

3 Victoria Crosses awarded to Can troops in Italy; Invasion of Sicily 1st time since WWI Can troops had full scale combat engagement [4/4]

Battle of Juno Beach (1944) D-Day; 3 Can Div & 2 Can Armoured Bde land infantry; RCAF & RCN support; first mins of raid prove costly [1/5]

3 Can Infantry Div led by MGen Rod Keller was assigned 6 miles of beach, incl villages of Courseulles & Bernieres [2/5]

RCN = 121 vessels to D-Day armada; RAF & RCAF = 2434 fighter & fighter-bombers w/ 700 light/med bombers to support [3/5]

3 Can Infantry Div suffer >1000 casualties of <2000 predicted; despite failure to capture any final D-Day objectives, Juno still… [4/5]

Considered 1 of most strategic successful of landings; 1 Sherman tank that landed & fought into Ger is now preserved in QC [5/5]

Battle of the Scheldt (1944) 1st Can Army clears port of Antwerp at great cost to open supply route to Allies; Can takes 41K Ger prisoners

Liberation of Netherlands (1945) RCE instrumental in river crossings; Arnhem defended by 1K men; town is burnt shell when Allies take it

However, as Allies march through Netherlands, they save many Dutch from near-starvation conditions & are remembered as heroes

120K tulip bulbs were gifted to Can by the Dutch for Can efforts in WWII; they represent peace, freedom & int’l friendship

To this day, Ottawa yearly receives 10K bulbs from the Dutch Royal family & can be viewed by the public at the Tulip Festival each spring

Can participate in final Invasion of Ger (Battle of the Bulge, Aachen, Remagen); 3 Can Victoria Crosses earned here; 50K Cans fight in D-Day

Can pop. 1939 = 11.5M; 1.1M Cans serve in WWII; in all, 45K died, 55K wounded; After, Can adopts policy of multilateralism with Allies [1/2]

This affects Can’s participation in wars despite allies being engaged, notably Vietnam and Iraq; Can lends indirect support instead [2/2]

Mon Nov 9 — —

Can maintains 4CMBG in Ger as part of NATO commitments (1950s-90s); close to full strength in event of Warsaw Pact invasion

RCAF establishes 1 Air Div in early 50s to meet Can’s NATO air defence commitments in Europe; rest of country demobilizes forces

Korean War (1950-53) Can needs months to bring forces up to strength; Can troops arrive in theatre 1951, with 1st Commonwealth Div

Aug 1950, 2 PPCLI created for Can Army Special Force to Korea; 1st Can infantry unit to take part; in all, 8500 Can troops committed

Fighting concentrated on small area N of Seoul; Can war front was 30 miles across; most combat took place in this zone

Cans 2 main adversaries were NKorea and China; Op Killer = 900 PPCLI, in winter, take hill 419 from Chinese; 10 PPCLI KIA, 20+ wounded

Battle of Kapyong (1951) 2 PPCLI & Aussie troops vs entire Chinese 118th Div; Cans call artillery on own positions to avoid being overrun

Battle devolved to bayonet charges, hand-to-hand combat; air drops of supplies were called in; Can losses = 10 KIA, 23 wounded

After Kapyong, PPCLI transfer to 25th Can Infantry Bde, rotate w/ Van Doos, RCR, LdSH (RC), RCHA at the front; units of RCAMC also rotate

3 RCN destroyers sent first, 8 ships overall; in Korean waters 1950-55; only Can naval casualties when Iroquois hit during patrol

RCAF heavily involved transporting supplies & personnel during war; 600 trans-Pacific flights flown; RCAF suffered no losses

Can troops in Korea = 27K; 516 KIA; 1558 overall Can casualties; often called “Forgotten War” in comparison to WWI & II

Can govt merges RCAF, RCN, and Can Army to form CAF (1964-68); October Crisis (1970) 1st domestic terror crisis; 12500 troops deploy in QC

Vietnam War (1955-75) Can did not officially fight in Vietnam but 30K Cans volunteers w/ US Army; 110 Cans KIA, 7 remain MIA

Oka Crisis (1990) Mohawk land claim = 2500 QC reg force & reserve troops deployed @ Oka & Montreal. Op Salon ends w/ no shots fired

Gulf War (1990-91) Op Friction = 4500 CF troops; RCN, RCAF in Qatar, CF Joint HQ in Bahrain, 1st Can Field Hospital @ Al-Qaysumah

3 RCN destroyers performed escort duties; Can tankers supplied fuel; Can Sea King helicopters = recon, mine ops, air-to-ship, & other tasks

RCAF provided combat air patrols in N & Central Persian Gulf, air-to-ground bombing missions, sorties, air-to-air refuel

1 Can Field Hospital, Petawawa, deployed to join UK forces but only operated for 2 wks before hostilities ceased

Can suffers no loss of life during the conflict but many veterans suffer from Gulf War syndrome, the cause of which cannot be determined

CF part of UNPROFOR, in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina in the 1990s; Op Medak Pocket sees 2PPCLI act as buffer b/w Serb & Croat armies [1/3]

Medak Pocket = “Can’s secret battle”; skews public perception of “peacekeeping” at time; Can hadn’t fought full-scale battle in 40 yrs [2/3]

2PPCLI awarded Comd-in-Chief Unit Commendation for actions at Medak Pocket, 1st ever Can unit presented with this [3/3]

UNOSOM I during Somali Civ War (1992-95); CF Op Deliverance involved 1400 troops; humanitarian mission ends poorly [1/2]

Can troops torture Somali teen to death, resulting in Can Airborne Regt disbanding, firings in DND & poor CF reputation at home [2/2]

UNAMIR (1993-96)in Rwanda; MGen Romeo Dallaire commands during genocide; difficult period for UNAMIR as mandate = restrictive overseeing

Dallaire repeatedly attempts to establish peace b/w Hutu & Tutsi; reduced to bystander role; manages to provide refuge for… [1/2]

1000s Tutsi & Hutu moderates in Amahoro Stadium HQ; also assists with evacuation of foreign natls [2/2]

Over 400 Can soldiers serve w/ UNAMIR; MGen Guy Tousignant also commands during this period; 1 Can dies while serving

Red River Flood (1997) 9K Can troops sent to MB to help w/ evac & engineering; largest single troop deployment since Korea

NAmerica Ice Storm (1998) Op Recuperation = 16K troops to ON, QC, & NB to aid in emergency services, road recovery & evac

Tues Nov 10 — —

Can joins US-led attack on Afghanistan (2001) in response to 9/11 attacks, intended to defeat Taliban govt & rout Al-Qaeda

Op Apollo (2001-03) 40 JTF2 sent Dec 01, reg forces arrive Kandahar Jan 02; IRF consists of 750 3PPCLI, LdSH(RC), 1 Svc Bn

Op Apollo also sees RCAF send 200 personnel for recce & air support; RCN maintains small but hardworking presence in Persian Gulf

3PPCLI BG serves 6 mths overseas; Cpl Rob Furlong makes longest distance sniper kill ever: over 2400m during mountain patrols in Paktia

Cans responsible initially for providing security @ Kandahar & airport; later, tasks range from airfield security to combat

Op Harpoon under LCol @PatStogran destroys several cave bunkers in same region Mar 02; 3PPCLI BG returns to camp @ Kandahar

Apr 02 US drops bomb on Tarnak Farm, designated training area S of Kandahar; 4 3PPCLI KIA, 8 wounded;1st Can deaths in Afghanistan

Op Torii (May 02) 3 day intl task force op in Tora Bora incl 400 Cans; mission was to find Taliban & Al-Qaeda caves & destroy them

Zobol Province (Jun/Jul 02) sweep recovers several rockets, fosters relations with governor, & provides humanitarian aid to locals

3PPCLI BG returns to Can Jul 02; RCAF & RCN continue providing support for Op Apollo to Aug 03 when refocused to Op Athena

CF forces move to Kabul in N to command ISAF; Op Athena’s 1900 Cans provided assistance to civi infrastructure: well digging, bldg repair

3 Bn RCR deploys as 1st roto of Task Force Kabul; primary objective was ensuring safe conduct of 04’s 1st democratic Afghan election

2005 = Can announces doubling of # of troops in Afghanistan by summer, coincides w/ move back to volatile Kandahar; Op Athena ends

Op Archer starts Feb 06; part of US military cmd; Task Force Afghanistan BG = 2300 Can soldiers in Kandahar, extending commitment by 2 yrs

Jul 06 ISAF assumes control of S and Can Task Force BG transferred back to ISAF control; change after record # of Taliban attacks in spring

Cans become caught in middle of forces massing in Kandahar & Helmand; Op Mountain Thrust (May-Aug 06) NATO led attempt to quell Taliban

Coalition forces meet Taliban 16x in 3 mth period; 1st Battle of Panjwaii = Can suffers 1st female combat arms casualty Capt Nichola Goddard

1st Panjwaii also claims lives of 4 other Cans, Cpl Bryce Keller receiving Medal of Military Valour posthumously, 1 of 2 awarded 4 Panjwaii

Battle of The White Schoolhouse (06) two separate battles, both deadly for Can forces; 4 dead on 1st attempt; 5 on 2nd; 30+ wounded

1RCR replaces PPLCI for Op Medusa ,Sep 06; fighting leads to 2nd Battle of Panjwaii; Can forces spearhead Op again; 5 KIA, 30 wounded

After major combat ceases, reconstruction begins, rebuilding “The Road to Panjwaii” becomes equally deadly effort for Cans

Following Panjwaii, Can govt commits Sqd of Leo C2 tanks from LdSH(RC) & additional 200-500 troops; w/ newly arrived tanks… [1/2]

Cans launch Op Falcon Summit, Zhari; massive Can arty & tank barrages clear Taliban resistance; begin deadly task of Road to Panjwaii [2/2]

2RCR BG arrives Feb 07 to Kandahar; Jul 07 3 Bn R22R GB w/ support from 5 CMBG and LdSH(RC) conduct ops on the ground

New rotation emphasizes clearing-holding-building efforts in Panjwaii & Zhari, protecting Arghandab & Spin Boldak

Feb 08 Van Doos replaced by another PPCLI BG; Can gov’t extends mission again into 2011, setting firm pullout date

Can troops remained active in Panjwaii & Kandahar, Zhari & Daman districts; FOB Masum Ghar served as BOO for Can’s tank sqns

Other ISAF installations w/ Can presence incl Nathan Smith, Frontenac, Martello, Sperwan Ghar, Spin Boldak, Zettelmeyer… [1/2]

Wilson, Camp Gecko, Wolf, Warehouse, Julien, Black Horse & Strong Points N, S & W in Arghandab; 1 Bn R22R marks final roto before withdrawal

3PPCLI had begun training 400 Afghan Natl Army recruits for Op Moshtarak, ISAF pacification offensive in Marjah, as early as 09

Battle of Marjah (2010) key test of coalition strategy against Taliban; Can focus is air assault w/ Chinook & Griffon helicopters

By 2010, Can troops focused on training Afghan Natl Army & Police; Op Attention officially takes place in Kabul b/w 2011-2014

Mar 15 2014 completed the 12 yr mission in Afghanistan w/ last 84 soldiers withdrawing; flag lowering ceremony held in Kabul

During the war, another key element of Can Ops was the KPRT, 330+ CF personnel, RCMP & civilians tasked to rebuild Kandahar

Afghan police & military were retrained, agriculture improved; architecture rebuilt; KRPT transferred to US cmd in 2011 as withdraw begins

RCN became part of US CTF 150 for maritime patrol & enforcement near Afghanistan (03-08); Cans also part of UNAMA, or Op Accius

From Feb 02 – Mar 14, 158 Can soldiers KIA in support of war in Afghanstan; 2000+ soldiers were injured, countless more suffer PTSD

Battle honours have been bestowed on units of RCN, Can Army, and RCAF; # of units recognized with Comd-in-Chief’s Unit Commendation [1/2]

Units = 1 Bn RCR, 1 Bn PPCLI, 3 Bn PPCLI, & 3 Bn R22R; Calgary Highlanders = CF Unit Commendation 4 contributing < any reserve unit [2/2]

“Afghanistan” theatre honour = 2 units RCN, 65 units Can Army, 4 units RCAF, 1 unit JTF2; “Arabian Sea” honour = 15 RCN vessels

While in Afghanistan, CF also deploys 2600+ troops to BC for Op Peregrine (2003) wildfire aid; CF officers in US participate Iraq inv (2003)

RCN & RCAF assets deploy to NATO Op Mobile in Libya (2011); RCAF aids NATO in Mali (2013); 24 JTF2 secure Can embassy in Bamako

Recently, Can troops have deployed to Kuwait, Ukraine & Syria to aid UN/NATO efforts; currently 60K+ CAF members serving every day

1 final interesting fact: no CF soldier has been awarded a Victoria Cross since 1945; their valour may be undecorated but never unnoticed

Thank you to all that serve: @CanadianForces @CanadianArmy @RCAF_ARC @CanadianNavy We will remember you every day. #RemembranceDay2015

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Strong Women, Strong Words

Now that I’ve got a lot of time on my hands, albeit with a limited amount of mobility (a baby feeding or sleeping on you will do that), I’ve become addicted to Pinterest. So far I have discovered that there are a lot of really cool things and a lot of really awful things that people like to ‘pin’. The attached image is something that I came across late one night, and even though I usually just skim past things like these, this made me so incensed that I had to save it so I could blog about it.

The image comes from a blog dedicated to posting ‘girly girl’ quotations. If you do a Google search for ‘girly girl things’, I guarantee you’ll find at least a dozen of these sites. Apparently they post things that women say or think of that define what it means to be a ‘girly girl’. While I don’t like these sites on principle, it’s the images like this one that make me want to tear them down off the internet and exorcise the lot.

The first statement on the image reads: “Sometimes you’ve got to run away to see who will run after you.” Let me tell you this: if I care about you and you run away, I will not chase you. I will be hurt, I might cry, but under no circumstances will I come looking for you. You chose to leave. Have fun being alone.

“Sometimes you’ve got to talk quieter to see who’s really listening.” WTF does this even mean? Seriously. Bueller? Bueller?

“Sometimes you’ve got to step up to fight only to see who’s standing by your side.” You can be sure that if I pick a fight, I am going to make sure I am strong enough to fight it by myself. I am certainly not going to throw down and then look back at you passive-aggressively to see if you’re planning on joining me. It’s my fight, and you have every right to tell me to go to hell. Sure, help is nice in anything you take on, but there should not ever be an expectation that it is always going to appear. Don’t start something unless you, and only you, can see it through.

“Sometimes you’ve got to make the wrong decision only to see who’s there to help you fix it.” Maybe. After I stop laughing at your ass for making the wrong decision on purpose, moron.

And then we come to this: “Sometimes you’ve got to let go of the one you love just to see if they love you enough to come back to you.” NO. A thousand times NO. It was this statement that incensed me. It was this sentence that made me so mad I had to rage blog.

What does this sentence say that makes me so mad? Firstly, it tells girls that it’s perfectly all right to just let something they care about go without standing up for their right to care about it. And secondly (and more infuriatingly), it suggests that there are women just waiting around for the things they care about to come to them.

THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS, LADIES. It’s not how it works for everyone, in fact: girls or boys, straight or gay, black or white or green. If you want something, if you care about something, you better be prepared to get your hands dirty, skin your knees, hurt your feelings, and lose everything else, because sometimes that’s what it takes. And whether you succeed in getting it or not, you will have the battle scars and a hell of a story to tell, not to mention the respect of everyone who sees what you have gone through. This is called ‘life’. Get acquainted with it. No one is going to hand you a trophy just for participating in it. If you don’t get actively involved in the way your existence is headed, you aren’t going to be all that happy with anything that might happen to bump into you along the way.

If I hadn’t dropped everything I had and knew to move across the country, I wouldn’t be sitting here now with a husband who thinks the world revolves around me and a beautiful child that breaks my heart every moment I spend looking at him. Sure, along the way I was involved in some pretty life-altering medical stuff, and sure I almost died, but you know what? I didn’t. And not only that, I defied every single medical professional proving just how much I refused to be a spectator in my own life. I grabbed that giant bull by the horns and pushed and cried and definitely overdid it, but I am here and I am amazing. And you are too. Remember that, and for my sake, never ever believe anything a ‘girly girl’ blog tells you that you should be.

Science: Being Awesome to Save Your Life

It’s such a hot button topic these days, but it bears repeating. And then I’ll tell you a little story.

IMG_0778Little Grunt just went to get his first vaccinations. I took him to the one of the Public Health offices, where they are administered free of charge to all children; probably all adults if you need your boosters, too. When I arrived, I had to go through a set of large glass doors, and posted on these doors in bright red was the following:

STOP! If you have a persistent cough, and with it a rash, fever, or runny nose, DO NOT COME IN. Please go to the nearest urgent care facility immediately. THERE HAS BEEN A MEASLES OUTBREAK IN THIS AREA.

Yes, really, and yes, I have been tracking it as it has made the news. Just after Grunt was born, there was a case in the Calgary area which saw all unvaccinated children and those susceptible to infection sent home from a public school, including a couple pregnant teachers. People were enraged that someone who did not believe in vaccinations or had chosen not to get them for a certain reason had suddenly disrupted their child’s learning environment.

Then the cases started to appear in Edmonton. MiniSir was in Wainwright tracking them along with me, making sure I wasn’t taking our newborn out to places where the infected had visited in the last 7 days. What became apparent as more cases were reported was that it was one community in particular that was perpetrating all the nonsense. Unvaccinated children between 3 and 6 years of age that attended the same doctor’s offices, the same church, and the same grocery store were spreading it amongst themselves like one of those ridiculous chicken pox parties that used to occur in the 60s and 70s. One of these children even visited a maternity/newborn ward in a local hospital before being quarantined, primarily because I feel the parents just didn’t understand how seriously ill he was and how deadly his illness could be to those that cannot fight against it.

But the final straw was when an infected 30 year old male took the disease with him to West Edmonton Mall the day before Mother’s Day and spent 4 hours there spreading it around. Of all the socially irresponsible things to do, to me this was on a scale similar to that of a spree killing. I was texting with other new moms in the area every time more locations were announced, each of us making sure the others were aware of the details. We all wanted to be as careful as we could. Our husbands in the field were just as concerned. And then this dumb ass just waltzes through the busiest shopping centre in the city on one of the busiest shopping days of the year and spreads all that germy love around like a gift.

Grunt and I were lucky. All of those reported infected lived in the south end of the city, and so all the reported places of business where there could have been contact were far away from our usual haunts. But I still washed my hands religiously. I told strangers not to get too close to my baby. I purposefully avoided getting out of my car if I could, and when I did I wiped everything down with antibacterial wipes. I kept my son safe from the negligence of others because that’s what socially responsible parents and people do. The outbreak has been declared over in Calgary, but not in Edmonton. Not yet. And so, the signs at the Public Health office are still up, because you can’t be too careful.

Which leads me to my story. Last week there were celebrations at MiniSir’s regiment for the “Change of Command”, when a new commanding officer takes over from the old. There was a parade with lots of tanks driving around and firing blanks, so I took the baby out for some fresh air, sunshine, and pomp and circumstance. Afterward, everyone gathered at the regiment for a light lunch and socializing. While I was standing with Grunt waiting to see MiniSir, another officer asked if he and his family could sit beside me. Of course I said yes. I then made small talk and found an excuse to leave quickly. Why? Because said officer’s toddler was with him, and said officer has made it very clear to others that he doesn’t believe in vaccinations, ANY type of vaccinations, and his children have not had any. He put me in a position where I had to choose between social nicety and protecting my child. There wasn’t really a choice. I may have been rude, but I couldn’t consciously make the decision to stay where I was.

Science. Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Chris Hadfield can’t be wrong about it being awesome. Jenny McCarthy and Alicia Silverstone may be celeb “yummy mummies”, but until they can hold up a shred of evidence to suggest vaccinations aren’t safe, I’ll stick with the professionals on this: vaccines save lives, not Dr. Oz.

To Mommies Everywhere: You Got This

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I’ve been a mummy for 8 weeks now; weeks of wonder and of exhaustion. And in those 8 weeks I’ve begun to learn all about this mommyhood business. My most important lesson thus far has been this: every single mommy out there is winging it. Especially if they have more than one sweet little bundle. Every parenting moment happens on the fly, and it’s over before you know it. You’re so tired that you don’t even go back and analyze what you would have done differently until much, much too late, and by then you are doing all the things you said you weren’t going to do with your own kids.

I made a proclamation to my mum a few months back that I wouldn’t co-sleep with my newborn. I wasn’t even going to have him sleep in our bedroom with us. He was going to sleep next door in his crib where I wouldn’t roll on him accidentally and I would listen on the monitor in case he needed me. That lasted a week once he arrived home: one sleepless, heartbreaking week in which we discovered that he hated lying flat, he hated being swaddled, and he hated being left alone. (It was a lot of grouchiness for one so small.) Now, he sleeps in his hammock-style bassinet beside my bed, and when I can’t convince him to sleep during growth spurts or bouts of sickness, he lies between MiniSir and I in the bed. I’d be upset when Mum chooses to remind me of the arbitrary statement I made back when I was still naive, except now that I’ve learned just how little every other mother actually knows, I let it roll off my back.

Some of you reading this might argue that you do know quite a bit about being a mommy. That may be true, but there is a caveat you’re forgetting. You know a lot about being a mommy NOW. Think back to when you were still squeaky new and still had so much to learn, and admit you didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do. It’s okay. I’ll wait while you remember doing all those things that are now causing you to facepalm pretty hard.

Some of the other discoveries I have made during these last 8 weeks:

  • The internet can tell you how to do things like get formula stains out of onesies, but it cannot tell you why your baby is crying.
  • Similarly, if you believe the internet, your baby has every disease known to mankind and the only way to cure them is with a totally organic health food product bought from fair trade farmers in Peru.
  • If your baby is present in a room with other women, they will either compare it to their own or steal it from you. There is no third option.
  • Apparently, because I both breastfeed and supplement with formula, I am a hideous monster mother who wants her child to grow up to be a sociopath.
  • Also, I drink caffeine, have the occasional beer, and eat dairy while breastfeeding my son, so he will be an obese alcoholic.
  • No one ever believes you when you say that this is going to be your only child. NO ONE.
  • Take pictures. As many as you can. Because you will be too tired to remember what that weird rash looked like when you see your pediatrician next, but photos will always be there to explain for you.

Lastly, and in all seriousness, this: when you wake up at 2am for a feeding, and you’re exhausted and just looking for more sleep, and that beautiful little face stops crying and smiles at you as soon as you lean over the bassinet, your heart will stop and you will know that all of this BS you wade through every day means nothing because your baby feels safe and happy when you are near.

Week in Review: Back to… Darn, I’m Old

Hands up if you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck this morning!

I can’t believe it’s back to school time already. More importantly, I can’t believe that I have a niece starting kindergarten today that looked like this when I moved to Alberta:

Growing up should not be allowed. Look at those cheeks!

My stepchildren are starting grade 7 (GRADE 7!), grade 5, grade 2 and grade 1. I have a brother-in-law that’s starting a year-long college degree today, and I can’t even remember the last time I did anything academic. (Was it 2008? Maybe…) In conclusion, I am feeling my age this morning.

I am also feeling it because we have had such a busy week this past week. On Thursday we went to play trivia as we do every Thursday, and we WON! “The Del(ink)quents” are now in the trivia finals! It was a personal point of pride for us because we are the most heavily tattooed group in the bar (by far), and we managed to beat all of the groups that have been coming to trivia since the dawn of time. What a way to kick off the weekend!

MiniSir had Friday off, so he dropped me at my psychiatry appointment and went to run “some errands” (his exact words). I have begun my EMDR therapy now, and Friday was my first session. Basically what the doctor tells me to do is, after they hook me up to the incredibly non-complex machine, pull up in my mind the most vivid scene from the accident and hold it, experiencing it again. From there, I am just supposed to go where my mind takes me. Needless to say, the therapy is very powerful. You end up re-experiencing all the emotions and physical sensations associated with your memories. I told the doctor that next session I was wearing a bib because the front of my shirt was soaked with tears. He told me to never ever wear mascara to a session. Also sound advice. So in case you were wondering what happened to Flat-Out Friday last week, it did happen, at least for me. I got my chance to release anxieties and hurt over the accident – it was just in a private forum.

Friday afternoon MiniSir and I went to paint matching mugs at a pottery studio just off Whyte Ave as part of the celebration of our first anniversary weekend. We decided to do it this past weekend because he had four days off and we could properly celebrate. Our “Time Lord” and “Companion” mugs should be ready for pick up by the end of this week, and I can’t wait to start using them.

Saturday morning we took off for brunch and then it was off to Calgary for the night! We drove down and stayed in a hotel downtown. Our biggest plans were to visit the giant game store and eat at our favourite two restaurants. With a game store visit under our belt on Saturday afternoon, we headed out for supper. Halfway through supper, we connected with a good friend from Medicine Hat who also happened to be in Calgary that weekend, and so, plans for a quiet evening now only a dream, we met up with her. She brought along her old roomie, who we had known from our time in the Hat as well, and her roomie’s new beau. When he showed up wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, I knew we were in for a long night of nerdy conversation. Because if there’s one thing my love does best, it’s nerd out. We stayed out until 1:30am laughing, chatting, and catching up. The next morning’s checkout time came far too early. We had breakfast at our other favourite restaurant, caught some of the Pride Parade (it was Calgary Pride Weekend), and walked around the Eau Claire Market for a bit before hopping in the car and heading home.

I had a nap when we got home, slept all night, had a four-hour nap yesterday, and then last night’s sleep, and I STILL don’t feel like I’ve caught up. Oh, to be young and spry again, and not so very old and broken. Last night we went for supper at the home of another Strathcona officer and his wife. It was fabulous and we had a great time, and yes, stayed a lot longer than we intended because of that. Why does having a social life have to be so tiring?! A long, long time ago I was celebrating my Frosh Week on this day. I was a lot less tired then, and Frosh Week is hard work. But I guess I’ve got a few years and a second lease on life under my belt, so I should just take what I can get.

Now to drag my tired ass to my other psychiatry appointment today, so I can see my other other psychiatrist. Happy Back to School to all the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, kids, teachers, and folk of the periphery I’ve probably forgotten. You’ll have to forgive me: my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. It does that with age.

Drawn Into It

I’m a grown woman and I’m not afraid to admit it: I like cartoons. When I was younger, I was always drawn to the happily-ever-after stories of Disney princesses, but as I matured, I realized that they don’t all have to be perfect all the time. In fact, I prefer the imperfect ones; the ones that make me cry, or squirm uncomfortably, or even just leave me in thought when the credits roll. I prefer stories that have an environmental impact to them, something that makes a hero even more heroic because he has failed at his task, or hard lessons about family life. Someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to show my child the value of loss as well as victory, and that striving to be perfect is just living with an unattainable goal.

With that in mind, here are a few tv shows and films I enjoy because they don’t just portray the message that everyone wins all the time, and even if they do it’s at a personal cost or because of a lesson learned.

1. Studio Ghibli: an animation studio out of Japan, you may recognize this name because of its association with Pixar and Disney’s John Lasseter. Their first feature was Only Yesterday, a story about an unwed woman who was now too old to be single, according to her family’s strict standards. She spends the movie reminiscing about life when she was 10, and how much simpler it was. The movie brings up young love, periods, old Japan versus new Japan, and antiquated notions of what young women should do, including obeying their elders. It’s a hard look at a modern woman’s Japan animated in the mid 80s, a time when the feminism movement was hitting its peak there. Yes, there are follow-ups like My Neighbor Totoro or Porco Rosso, movies that you would not think had any particular message. But Ghibli, in its cleverness, just makes you think that upon first blush. I can assure you that each one of their films has a strong and vital message worth listening to.

2. Pixar: on the outside, this funny, childish animation studio may seem all sweet and innocent, but if we remember Toy Story, their first feature, correctly, we realize that Buzz suffers from some serious PTSD after the cherry bomb incident and Woody is prone to anxiety attacks. Finding Nemo is a story about a man who nearly loses everything and his realization that he cannot stop it from happening again – he can only change his reaction to it. That’s some pretty hefty cognitive behavioural therapy happening right there. I find that sometimes they do get off track a little – Cars, for example, wasn’t one of their strongest – but when I cried like a baby during my first AND second Brave viewings, I knew they had found their feet again.

3. Despicable Me: Universal really outdid themselves with the original movie and its follow-up. Granted, the sequel was, like all sequels, more laughs and fewer lessons, the thing that made the first movie shine made it shine as well: a man who believes he has no love in his heart and must therefore be evil finds himself suddenly caring, and three girls who have a dream of a perfect family and instead find Gru. It’s an ugly duckling story combined with Annie, and even though the ending is neat and tidy, there are real emotions and real feelings struggled with throughout the movie. Once again here is a man who, when challenged about what he loves most, makes the decision to put his family before his fame. It’s a good lesson to see, particularly in this age of celebrity drive-thru marriages and divorce.

4. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited: okay, so these two tv shows are about super heroes, but don’t just dismiss them out of hand. These two shows in particular deal with some very adult themes, and though they are rated 8+, I would be hesitant to have anyone younger than 12 watching them. They deal with hard issues like trust, failure, war crimes, genocide, and racial purity. In a world where heroes should win all the time by definition, the Justice League takes casualties. They lose sometimes. They fight amongst themselves. They keep secrets. Things end badly for them many, many times. This is when I would say it’s all sunshine and rainbows at the end of the series, but it’s not. If you are a fan of DC comics at all, you’ll know that it never is. These two shows are truer to the comic than any live-action movie I’ve seen revolving around these characters, which is good, because learning that even heroes aren’t invulnerable is a key lesson for anyone.

 

5. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: you all knew it was coming. I’ll keep it short. It may seem overly heavy on the lessons at times, but magic or brute strength are never ever EVER the answer. Hardwork, determination, and trust are always rewarded. For a young viewing audience, that’s the best thing you can hope for.

 

Real Life Kings Quest

You ever play the game Kings Quest in the 90s? I had a 8-bit version of it with nine 5-inch floppy disks, and I used to lie them all out on my bed so I could switch between them easily.

This summer, a local journalist has organized a real-life quest for intrepid Edmontonians to encourage the exploring their own city. She has launched her “yegquest” through the Edmonton Journal, and has brought along some local fowl for the ride. Every day, she posts a photo of her papier mache feathered friends in a recognizable Edmonton location, and challenges readers to go find the exact spot and submit a photo of themselves for a chance to win a night for two at Fairmount Hotel MacDonald, with breakfast included the morning after.

To me, this is like Kings Quest all over again. Using Google Maps and local news to figure out where the locations are is like collecting the rhymes and clues that tell you where you need to venture. For twelve consecutive days, a new photo will be posted on Paula Simons’ blog. You have until September 1 to enter all your yegquest photos into the contest. You can follow @yeg_chick or @paulatics on Twitter for more updates and info on the contest.

I think a night at the Hotel Mac would he the perfect way for Matt and I to celebrate our first anniversary on September 8, so we are totally committed to doing this. Quest on!