General Rick Hillier: What Remembrance Day Means to Me

We are honoured to have General Rick Hillier write a guest blog post on behalf of TELUS. The following is General Hillier’s thoughts on Remembrance Day and what it means to him.

As Remembrance Day 2014 approaches, I am reminded of the incredible opportunity I have working with some 35,000 awesome people at TELUS. Like me, they believe in giving where they live and supporting those who are the embodiment of Remembrance Day: our soldiers who have served and those still serving. Since my 2008 appointment to serve as the Chair of the TELUS Atlantic Canada Community Board, we’ve been able to assist those soldiers by donating more than a million dollars to causes that support them and inspire us: the True Patriot Love Foundation, Project Hero, the Military Families Fund and Military Family Resource Centres on every base and station in Canada. We do it to make the lives of soldiers and their families just a bit better. Because these men and women, these soldiers from every service, are the embodiment of Remembrance Day for me. They are my heroes. I never was one; but every day in uniform, I sure felt that way.

I felt like a hero, but not because of anything I had done. I felt like a hero because I had the privilege of working with thousands of heroes and their own heroism inspired me to be a better version of myself. Heroes like Mark Fuchko, who was horribly wounded in the lower legs when an IED detonated beside his tank in Kandahar on March 28, 2008. Intelligence and common sense are invaluable traits in any soldier, and Mark’s told him to set tourniquets loosely above his knees when he commenced the operation. Immediately after the detonation, he was able to tighten those tourniquets to cut off blood and fluid loss, keeping himself alive during a long period of time while he lay trapped in that tank. Mark’s actions inspire me.

I worked with heroes like Jody Mitic, one of our snipers in Afghanistan who lost both of his legs below the knee on January 17, 2007. His life was saved by Sgt Alanah Gilmore, a combat medic who got to him quickly and acted so professionally under almost unimaginable stress. They spent one of the worst days of their lives together, obviously liked what they saw, and are now partners with two beautiful children. Their combined drive led Jody to compete in The Amazing Race Canada last year, and his election to city council in Ottawa just last month.

These soldiers’ common sense, persistence and desire to serve others continue to enhance our nation even when they take the uniform off. They most certainly continue to inspire me.

I felt like a hero because I served in the uniform of our nation that had been worn by people like Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, who during desperate fatigue and despair, wrote that marvel called ‘In Flanders Fields’. I felt like a hero because I served the same nation as Sergeant Ernest ‘Smokey’ Smith, who served in Sicily, mainland Italy and Northwest Europe during World War II. His incredible valour in the fall of 1944 in Italy led Smokey (as he was known to all) to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour in the British Empire. I also felt like a hero because I was privileged to serve alongside countless men and women who gave their all and asked for almost nothing in return. Whether their missions were in Canada, at sea, in the air or on dirty, dusty and dangerous trails in the many struggling states around the world, they were what could be described as ordinary men and women who, because of their belief in service before self, often onto death, accomplished extraordinary things. People like Pat Towers, Colin Fitzgerald, Conrad Cowan, and Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo; they touch our hearts and keep our nation strong.

Like most Canadians, I was reminded last month that heroes come in many forms, and how important they each are to us and the very lives we live. As Rabbi Reuven Bulka said several years ago during the Remembrance Day ceremonies, ‘We love our troops’. At no time in the past has that love been more obvious than when Patrice and Nathan died completing their missions; in their final service to us.

At this time of year on Remembrance Day, I am also reminded that the last war is not over until the last veteran from it passes from this life. Those veterans, from every community in our great nation, are the focus of my Remembrance Day. They are my heroes, and they made me feel like a hero when I put on that uniform. I wear my Poppy as a salute to them, and I visit the National War Memorial in Ottawa on November 11 to remember them; to grieve for the loss of so many; to support those who have been maimed physically, mentally or spiritually; and to assure them, my heroes, that they will never be forgotten. I visit the War Memorial to say thank you for the country and society they built and continue to keep strong. I go to give thanks that we as Canadians had them when we needed them most. This is what Remembrance Day means to me. God Bless those soldiers, God Bless their families and God Bless Canada.

If like me, you are moved by the heroes living among us and want to make a donation to support them and their families, now through November 12, TELUS will match all donations made via text to the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy Campaign Fund and the Military Families Fund up to $12,500 each.

To donate $5 to the Poppy Trust Fund text POPPY to 20222

To donate $10 to the Military Families Fund text FAMILY or FAMILLE to 20222

The Art of Remembrance: Showing our gratitude

Our team members and their families came together to share their personal reflections and to collaborate on an art project in honour of Remembrance Day.