From Editorial, Globe and Mail, November 8, 2011
The Silver Cross Mother is a title bestowed annually on a mother or widow of a Canadian who has fallen in service for the country. It honours not only a particular mother or widow but all mothers and widows of service people.
But there is no Silver Cross Father. There should be.
The Silver Cross Mother is drawn from among those who have received the Memorial Cross, a memento created by King George V in 1919. For the first time in 2006, a widower received that memento. That was as much a recognition of women’s role in combat – this was Canada’s first death of a woman combat soldier – as it was of a man’s grief and supporting role. Women fight and die for their country. And men grieve for them when they do.
Some might say that some historical mementos should be left alone. The Silver Cross Mother, awarded by the Royal Canadian Legion, is a link with the past, with a long chain of grieving women and families.
But if it is a worthy award – and it is – then why not adapt it to give it more meaning? Why allow it to become merely quaint? It could and should be revitalized to include men, who after all grieve and suffer. One day, perhaps, a soldier will die, leaving two fathers behind. Should that soldier, male or female, be denied an honour for his or her parents?
The Royal Canadian Legion has an opportunity to demonstrate forward thinking. Women fight and die for Canada, and men grieve.
Certainly, recruitment, and thereby military service personnel has changed in the Canadian forces. While still in the minority, women are enlisting in increasing numbers. At the same time, men are becoming more willing and open to acknowledge emotions, and that includes those feelings that accompany loss, grief, sadness, loneliness.
We watched as a Korean veteran (a male) proudly interviewed by CBC at the Remembrance Day ceremonies on Friday, tell the interviewer that he had never shared any of his memories of the battle with his grandson standing beside him.
For the first time, on camera, he acknowledged that Korea was an unfriendly and cold place where the soldiers had to share the trenches with rats, albeit in a matter of fact tone without emotion.
The Globe editorial makes a valid point that there should be a Silver Cross Father, without pointing to the emerging reality of men opening their hearts to their own emotions, even though they may feel they lack adequate vocabulary to express and name those feelings.
If it served no other purpose than to help to evoke the legitimate emotions of grief and loss suffered by men, be they fathers of daughters killed in combat, or husbands of wives, then it will have served a most useful and long-range healthy purpose.
Men neither are, nor can they become, the emotional 'robots' they pretend to be, in so many instances. And only when institutions like the military, and the schools and universities and governments and social service agencies where both men and women serve legitimize the existence and expression of honest and unavoidable emotions, will men and women together be able to enhance their respective complexity with the other gender.
Let's raise a glass to the prospect of a "Silver Cross Father" presentation at next year's Remembrance Day ceremonies.