Over the past several months I have had the extreme privilege of meeting several young men and women who volunteered to serve our country in uniform during the time our military was deployed in Afghanistan.
Regardless of our political views as to whether we believe we should or should not have sent our troops to Afghanistan, these soldiers are deserving of our uppermost gratitude and respect.
They answered the highest call possible, the call to serve their country, knowing that in doing so they would be placing themselves in harm’s way and run the very real risk of forfeiting their lives or suffer harm and injuries the likes of which make up our worst nightmares.
These young people I met are the very model of The Habit of Humility. They do not see themselves as heroes but merely as ordinary people doing the job to which they were assigned; defending our country.
Most soldiers, returning from battle, will never speak of the horrors they witnessed.
They see things no-one should ever have to see, hears sounds that will haunt them forever and smell smells they may never get out of their nostrils.
Their jobs require them to commit horrific acts and many of them relive those horrors forever in their dreams.
It takes a special person to volunteer for a job that may kill them and these young soldiers were driven to do so for they felt honour bound to serve their country and the humility with which they downplay their heroism is a lesson in modesty for us all.
One of them shared with me his anguish at having lost two dear friends. One through hostilities while being deployed and one through suicide upon his return.
He spoke of the greatness of both of these folks, whose love of country led them to volunteer for our military and whose commitment to duty caused one to die in battle and one, whose inability to shut out the nightmarish images, sounds and smells of battle, drove him to take his own life.
We have tens of thousands of humble Canadians who will never see themselves as heroic and yet selflessly gave of themselves to serve their country.
I am proud to call these young people my friends and I am honoured by their presence whenever we meet.
Their adoption and commitment to The Habit of Humility is testament to their character and we, as a nation, owe an unpayable debt of gratitude to all those who serve.
We all know people whose favourite topic is themselves and who – often unasked – will regale all who will listen with story after story of their greatness.
They waste no opportunity to brag of their exploits and boast of their own brilliance as if somehow that makes them better people.
They seldom are humble despite frequently having much to be humble about.
Our true heroes are those who selflessly give of themselves, ask nothing in return and downplay recognition as being unnecessary.
They have no need to express and no desire to impress.
The Habit of Humility tells their stories in ways that bragging never can.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.