We will mark Remembrance Day this week. This is a day to for all of us to pause and reflect upon the tremendous sacrifices made – both past and present – to maintain our freedom and keep peace in the world. Here at The Ottawa Mission we have seen military veterans of all ages come through our front door over the years – for many reasons. Some come for a meal, some stay at the shelter for a time, and some are desperately looking for help to change their situation. Many are also dealing with shame of asking for help and may not tell people about the service they have given their country.
We are blessed to work with a group called Soldiers Helping Soldiers – an organization made up of past and present members of the Canadian Forces trying to connect with veterans in need. Members of this group volunteer in our kitchen twice a month, serving lunch to hundreds of hungry people. They also do a walk about to all the shelters at this time of year to reach out to those who may have a military background.
Capitan Vicky Ryan is one of the founding members of Soldiers Helping Soldiers. She says in a lot of cases veterans wrongly believe they don’t qualify for benefits because of misconceptions. “There’s a definite reaction former members of the Canadian forces have to us, as we wear our uniforms when we are volunteering”, says Captain Ryan. “They feel a bond to us – and us to them. We act as a bridge organization, to help them connect with benefits they are entitled to – even if they’ve had just one day of service in the Canadian Forces. It brings a special joy to me and my colleagues that we can help this way in our own community.”
On behalf of everyone at The Mission, we thank Captain Ryan and everyone with Soldiers Helping Soldiers for their efforts to ease the distress of veterans in our community. And on November 11th, a minute of silence will begin the daily Chapel service here at The Mission. We will remember.