Saturday , September 19 2020

'I was a snooze': How some former and current soldiers respond to Don Ferry's poppy comments


When John Stewart, a retired Army general, heard Don Ferry's comments on poppy and "you guys" during a Saturday night hockey game, he says he stepped on it.

"I took advantage of it, I totally understood his motivation and his commitment and support for the Canadian Armed Forces – fallen and alive. I think there is a much better way to say it. "

Stuart, who has retired after 20 years in the military, including a tour of Afghanistan, is a cherished fan of cherries, pointing to the 85-year-old support of the Force over the years.

Stewart says he was even strangled at the sight of Cherry listening to him talk about soldiers and veterans during hockey.

But he does not think Jerry has expressed his opinion very well. It's not just immigrants, Stewart said, "we don't do a great job as a country … educating everyone," about poppy and what it represents.

It includes "our, you know, born and grown children".

Retired Master John Stewart has served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 20 years. (Charles McGregor)

His colleague is one of those new immigrants. Karan Rana arrived in Canada only three months ago from India. He said he had been watching poppy poppies all the time, but had no idea what it was about. So, no, he wasn't wearing any.

Rana says she would never do anything to disrespect the veterans. "I have respect for every soldier who lost his life," he said, but until recently he was not so well-informed.

Early made the point of learning. He talked to Stewart. He researched poppies and the Internet Remembrance Day.

Stewart wonders if it should be part of what new Canadians learn when they come to this country.

"Is it part of immigration, part of your exam? Like, is that a big enough issue that is brought to light, you know, for us as a country to do a better job of education? "

Canadian Legion Initiatives

There's a section on the 148-page army Welcome to Canada: What You Need to Know guide.

It encourages new arrivals to "find out about Canada's military history, a key component of Canadian identity" and gives the Force a web address. There is nothing specific about Remembrance Day.

The Royal Canadian Legion says it has no data on whether immigrants or any other particular group carries more or less poppies – it just doesn't follow that kind of data.

But communications chief Nulma Bond says the Legion continues to try to educate all Canadians on the importance of poppy, including through new initiatives this year.

"We've reached a wider youth audience," by joining the game Fortnite and the Twitch games page, she said in an email. "These initiatives include elements of education about Canada's military past."

Change the military

Sgt Stephen Thomas, 37, is part of the military's present. He is a first generation Canadian, his parents come from Guyana. He joined the army on his 18th birthday and served two tours in Afghanistan. He said Jerry's comments shocked him.

"I don't think he understood how much the military has changed over the past decade or two," he said, referring to how many people of different colors and faiths, male and female, serve in all branches of the military.

"And not only [those] born in Canada but from abroad. Who came to this country and swore to our country and [are] serving their new home. "

Sgt Steven Thomas has been a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for 19 years. (Cindy Thomas)

Thomas says that when he is part of ceremonies and parades, he sees the respect of the people. He hears the gratitude. He doesn't even pay attention to people who don't wear poppies.

"People who pay their respects and say 'thank you' to our country and the sacrifices made for everyone else in the world – these are the ones I focus on," he said.

Retired Officer Nathan Silvester echoed that sentiment. He says that if one chooses to wear poppy, great. And if not, that's their choice. But he agreed with part of Jerry's message.

"There seems to be a definite decline in the population of people who wear poppy around Remembrance Day."

Retired Officer Nathan Silvester served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 20 years. (Submitted by Nathan Silvester)

Thoughts Sylvester (39) Corner of the coach it wasn't necessary for the right forum for Cherry to express his personal opinion on it, but he says he also didn't think Cherry wanted to attack anyone. "The message for me was more, you know, wearing poppy support. No, you know, who is or is not wearing poppy? "

Sylvester served one tour in Bosnia and two in Afghanistan. He also thinks education is key – and not moving enough in Canada to keep people informed of the latest missions involving Canada. But he doesn't think wearing – or not wearing – poppy really proves nothing.

"Just because someone doesn't wear poppy on their jacket or shirt or anywhere doesn't mean they won't be in Remembrance Day ceremony … doesn't mean they don't support veterans and soldiers."

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