Written by Dr. Vivien Lee.
Why I Wear a Poppy
…and Why I Care about Operational Stress Injuries (OSIs).
I can tell you the exact moment when my views on military and war flipped on a dime. It was October 2007 and I was standing in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery near Pusan, South Korea looking out at the graves of so many fallen soldiers from around the world who had come to a foreign land to fight for people they never knew.
Growing up in Canada, I had the privilege to remain ignorant of the depth of the freedom I had and all those who had fought for me to have that freedom. I had heard rare snippets from my parents about their youth – my father’s brother who was beaten so badly in his home by enemy soldiers that he was permanently crippled & died far too young from his injuries; my dad when he was a kid running with other starving neighbourhood kids to supplies dropped from a UN ally plane and getting sick from all the powdered milk they desperately gulped down; him casually mentioning in passing one of his military duties which involved sweeping the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for unexploded mines.
But it wasn’t until I stood in that cemetery in 2007 that I learned how close the South had been to losing the Korean War until soldiers from around the world came to this foreign little land, leaving their own families and their own safety to fight for us. I looked at the graves of fallen soldiers, forever separated from their loved ones.
In less than two minutes, my views drastically shifted. I thought about all of those individuals, past and present, who put their comfort, safety, and potentially lives on the line for total strangers in a foreign world. Many of whom have and continue to develop invisible operational stress injuries to keep others safe. Who have contributed to altering history, whether in the major World Wars, a little tiny third-world country called Korea, or those who work every single day to keep our communities safe.
Lest We Forget
Those who devote their lives to serving others in military and other public safety professions may never know whose lives they impacted; whose futures they fundamentally altered. My family has never forgotten. We know we could have grown up under the North Korean regime. My parents organize regular appreciation BBQs for Korean War vets in the Sudbury area. And a random psychologist born decades after the war in a country across the world – me – I never forget.
Thank you for your service.