Why I remember…
Remembrance Day often conjures images of red poppies, white crosses and the memories of lives lost in the dark days of war, generations ago.
But for many families, the loss of a loved one in service to our country isn’t due to D-Day or the raid on Dieppe, but events in much more recent history.
For Melissa Hanley, executive assistant to SAIT president and CEO, Dr. David Ross, and her family, Nov. 11 is a day to remember her brother, Lt (N) Chris Saunders, as well as the many Canadians who died while serving — even during times of peace. It’s a day of honour and heartache in equal measure.
From the time Saunders got his first taste of military life — joining the army reserves during high school in New Brunswick — he was dedicated to a life in service, first studying at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean Quebec and then stationed in Halifax. A true Maritimer, Saunders loved being around the water and his joy in receiving his ‘dolphin badge’ — bestowed to those who serve on submarines — was clear to his entire family, especially his mom, Debbie Sullivan.
It has been a little more than 16 years since Saunders was fatally injured while travelling back to Canada on the HMCS Chicoutimi when seawater shorted an electrical panel and started a fire on the vessel.
This year, Sullivan has been named Canada’s Silver Cross Mother, a representative who stands for all mothers who lost children in service to our country, either in action or over the course of regular duties. Along with laying a wreath at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day, she will undertake other duties throughout the coming year to pay respect to Canada’s fallen.
For both Sullivan and her family, the opportunity to represent the mothers of the fallen, to be seen on this national stage, is an honour inevitably tinged with the ongoing heartache of loss.
Melissa says she and her loved ones believe it’s important — if not difficult at times — to remember her brother, a beloved son, husband and father.
On this Remembrance Day, we are reminded to pause, remember and give thanks not just to those who gave their lives for Canada, but also the families — like Melissa, her mom and Saunders’ widow Gwen and two sons, Ben and Luke — who lost a loved one in service to our country.