Monday, April 5, 2021

For Canadian Military Widows, There Is No Day of Recognition

April 5th is Gold Star Spouses’ Day in the United States in recognition of the sacrifices made by the surviving (Gold Star) spouses of fallen service members.


In Canada, we don’t have a title or a special day of recognition for our military widows and widowers. Rather, they are given a Memorial Cross "as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice” on the part of their service member.


So today, let us also take a moment here in Canada to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice made by our Memorial Cross Widows (and Widowers).

All military spouses (and families) make incredible sacrifices for their spouse’s career and by extension, our country.


But military widows carry the heaviest burden of all. 


They carry the weight of a folded flag and their loss with them, for the rest of their lives. 


They are the ones left to pick up the pieces of broken hearts and families after their spouse dies.


Long after the funeral flowers have wilted and the casseroles are all eaten; still, they grieve. 


They endure sleepless nights, shed countless tears, and try to make sense of it all. 


They face the abyss of loneliness and despair, and sadly, some of them don’t make it through. 


Eventually, they find acceptance and move forward with their lives.


But they are never the same.


Their loss changes them; their sadness woven into the fabric of the person they have become.


They stand up to judgment and criticism and champion change, so that things might be better for the next widow. 


They are Afghanistan widows and accidental widows. They are ALS and cancer widows and they are suicide widows.


They are the ones who gave birth alone and they are the mothers of infants left to bring up children who will never know their fathers.


They are mothers of teenagers, older children, and every age in between.


Sometimes they are overwhelmed with the responsibility of only parenting.


And some of them are left to grieve the children they never got to have.


They are army, air force, and navy spouses.


And some of them wear a uniform themselves.

They live in military communities and civilian ones. 


They are your neighbours, though you may not even know it; their loss too painful for them to ever discuss.


They are your friends and my friends. And yes, they are even me.


For them, for us, Remembrance Day isn’t just one day, it’s every day. 


Because we can never, ever forget.


We are the memory keepers— determined that our spouse’s name never be forgotten, that their sacrifice not be in vain.


We are incredibly courageous, resilient, strong women (and men). 


And though we belong to a club we never wanted to be a part of, we are stronger because of each other.


The next time you think of a fallen soldier, please take a minute to remember the spouse they left behind, for they too made an incredible sacrifice for their country. 


We were wives and husbands once. But widows we will always be.




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