Hon. Yonah Martin: Honourable senators, I rise today during this Veterans' Week to pay tribute to the courageous men and women of our Canadian military, both past and present. There are no words to express the depth and breadth of a nation's gratitude and indebtedness to our Canadian soldiers over the course of our nation's history. We must never forget the sacrifices made, or take for granted the freedoms we have today. That freedom did not come without a price but their sacrifices were not in vain. We must remember. Lest we forget.
I owe my existence to the 26,971 unsung Canadian heroes, as does every survivor of the Korean War, including my parents. My father was a 17-year-old teen who had to escape to safety in the middle of the night, leaving behind his nine-months-pregnant eldest sister and my grandmother, who stayed to take care of her. My mother, only 12, remembers all too vividly her constant hunger, her fear of losing everything and the kind foreign soldiers who came to help them. From 1950 to 1953, the bloody civil war tore apart a nation, separating families, flattening cities and killing tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers. In that war, 516 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice.
In 1950, at a time when Canada was populated by a mere 13 million people, 26,971 of our nation's young men answered a call to action, to fight for foreign people in a faraway land, thousands of miles across an ocean, far from home. Canada was the third-largest contributor to the United Nations Allied Forces. These Canadians went to Korea, not because the Canadian government had sent them, but because they chose to answer a call to action. In essence, these 26,971 soldiers volunteered to fight a war that was not their own. The Korean War has been called the Forgotten War, for when the soldiers returned, Canada did not give them the heroes' welcome they deserved. However, they are heroes to me and all the people of Korean descent around the world.
Honourable senators, I stand here today with the deepest respect and gratitude to these unsung heroes of the Korean War. As the first Canadian of Korean descent to serve in the upper chamber, I stand here today as a part of their legacy, as does the Republic of Korea, which in only one generation, has risen from the ashes of war to stand now among the G20 nations, next to Canada.
I speak these words of remembrance so that all people of Korean descent — my grandparents, my parents, my generation and all generations hereafter — will never forget the selflessness, the courage and the ultimate sacrifices of the Canadian Forces and all Allied Forces of the Korean War.
Our brave men and women are presently in another foreign land, thousands of miles across an ocean, far from home, alongside Allied Forces to help the people of Afghanistan. They are families, and children — as my parents once were — who want nothing more than to play and go to school. They are people with dreams of peace, freedom and democracy for their country. Perhaps the Republic of Korea stands as a beacon of hope for the people of Afghanistan.
May those of us blessed with peace, freedom and democracy remember with pride and gratitude the incredible contributions and sacrifices of our Canadian military, past and present.
We must remember. Lest we forget.