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Jeff Rose-Martland Headshot

Should November Be a Month for Remembering Moustaches?

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I'd like to report that Day 1 of Veterans Among Us was a success. Participation was a little low -- this is only the second year of the campaign -- but those veterans who did wear their medals on November 1 had a good day. They got a lot of "Thank-you for serving" and some "I didn't know you were a veteran" and some "Do you mind if I look at your medals?" Great interaction, exactly what the campaign was designed for.

But it wasn't all rosy. The were a few you-shouldn't-be-proud-you-warmonger remarks from that part of the populace who have yet to figure out that it is we citizens who wage war, not the military. The military has no say in the matter.

The most common negative comment was "What's the matter? Isn't Remembrance Day enough for you?" I even got a variation of that myself, although I'm not a veteran. The promotional material for Veterans Among Us reads, in part, "to mark the Month of Remembrance," So I was questioned on that: why a month?

Answer #1 -- I'm not declaring a month, I'm saying two days: at the beginning and end.
Answer #2 -- Mostly "Month of Remembrance" comes from television programming. Some channels turn their programming to military history and veterans' stories during November. They call it the "Month of Remembrance."
Answer #3 -- Why not a month?

Let's explore #3. There will be no flag waving or hero-talk. his is a straight-forward analysis. And I'm going to pick on the other current awareness campaign: Movember.

I'm not knocking Movember. It is an excellent campaign, both for fundraising and awareness. I don't even have a problem with the timing. I have absolutely nothing against Movember. I'm using it for comparison purposes because Movember and Remembrance both happen during the same month and are both about awareness.

Last week, Movember enjoyed a lot more media coverage than veterans. There were perhaps half-a-dozen significant news items regarding veterans -- two of which related to stolen poppy cans. But there were hundreds, if not thousands of reports on Movember. Probably every male MP got a story and most of their provincial counterparts. Plus celebrities, the prostate cancer groups, the Canadian cancer society -- massive coverage. Based on media reports, Movember must be far more important than remembrance; prostate cancer must affect more Canadians than veterans issues.

Let's look at the numbers:

  • According to the Canadian Cancer Society's most recent statistics: "In 2007, there were approximately 748,897 Canadians who had been diagnosed with cancer in the previous 10 years. This represents about 2.3 per cent of the Canadian population or 1 out of every 44 Canadians."
  • Prostate cancer represents 27 per cent of new cancer cases in 2012 and about 10 per cent of cancer deaths. The overall incidence of prostate cancer in the population is 121 per 100,000 people. Or about 42,500 people.
  • Crunching the numbers a bit more (using 35 million for the population of Canada, in case you are wondering): 795,000 or 1 in 44 Canadians are affected by cancer; 215,000 or 1 in 166 are affected by prostate cancer over 10 years; there will be 42,500 new patients this year.

Undoubtedly, this is a big issue; one deserving of a major awareness campaign. And I don't begrudge them the four weeks duration, since it takes that long for some men to grow a moustache.

Now, let's take a look at veterans:

  • According to population estimates from Veterans Affairs, National Defence, RCMP, and Public Safety, there are approximately 1-million people who have served or are serving in the Canadian Forces and RCMP.
  • This means that 1 in 35 Canadians is a veteran.

Now think about the media coverage. Movember is getting massive coverage. Veterans? A pittance by comparison. Number of Canadians affected by prostate cancer: 1/166. By cancer, total: 1/44. By being a veteran: 1/35. Numerically, veterans should be receiving 4.5 times the amount of coverage as prostate cancer. And about the same amount of coverage as cancer.

But they don't.

"Isn't one day enough for you?"

No. Not by the numbers. Not by comparison to other awareness campaigns.

And certainly not if that one day is dedicated to the dead. Remembrance, remember? Paying tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice? The reason you see a lot of veterans on Remembrance Day is because they knew the fallen or are like them. Asking veterans to celebrate their service on Remembrance Day is like asking people to do the chicken-dance at a funeral.

Or to celebrate surviving cancer by drinking nuclear waste. So, no, one day is not enough to dedicate to veterans.

"Why a Month of Remembrance?"

Why not? The RCMP and Canadian Forces make, perhaps, the biggest contributions to our country of any single group. They protect us all, at home and abroad. They extract us from dangerous situations. They rescue entire communities from disaster. They rebuild those communities afterwards. They operate in the worst conditions to bring food, water, medical supplies to those who are stranded. They do whatever we citizens ask, knowing they will eventually be injured or killed in the process. And they do it with low pay and miserly benefits. Benefits they have to fight for, with appeals and lawsuits and hunger-strikes and protests.

In recognition, we begrudgingly give them a day to mark their service. We expect them to celebrate at the same time as remembering the dead. Most of us can't be bothered to go to the services. In three provinces, Remembrance Day isn't a holiday; we don't even respect veterans' contributions enough to take a day off work. But when we do, we use the day to sell liquor or have a makeout party.

That's how we honour Canada's veterans: put on a poppy, pay lip-service to the dead, and ignore the living. We know 4.5 times as many veterans as prostate cancer victims. Yet November is now dedicated to facial hair, while only the dead veterans get acknowledged, and just for one day. And mostly by themselves.

Why a month of Remembrance? Because, maybe, perhaps, if we set aside 30 days, then maybe, perhaps, there might be a small chance that citizens will actually think about the veterans that have served us all.