Remembrance Day is almost upon us. It still strikes me how completely changed the day is from when I was growing up. Back then, it was about very old veterans in their navy polyester blazers and ill-fitting berets, laying dusty, cheap wreaths that appeared to be made from recycled artificial turf. When I heard their stories, I pictured them in black and white, just like all the old documentaries on their exploits from so long ago.

From the moment we took our first casualties in 2002, Remembrance Day changed. Suddenly there were new veterans; the pictures and videos were in full colour. After serving overseas and losing friends, it became very personal. When I visit the Beechwood National Military Cemetery in Ottawa (Canada’s equivalent to Arlington) there are graves of people I knew and served with.

There is a demand for veterans to speak at schools and events, and increasingly it is the new veterans of my generation who are picking up the torch and speaking of the experience of war. This is an important task, and not one to be taken lightly. Even though the Afghan war ended for Canada with the close out of our contribution to the training mission in 2014, it was never that close to home for most Canadians.

There are memorials and cenotaphs in even the smallest villages throughout the country, a legacy from the First World War that saw 650,000 Canadians (and Newfoundlanders, Newfoundland being an independent colony at the time) in uniform, and the country suffered 66,000 dead and 172,000 wounded, with uncounted numbers more suffering what was termed “shell shock.” For a country of just eight million, it was a significant toll with virtually no family unaffected.