By Jill Kruse
I became a fan of the Red Fridays Support Our Troops campaign back in January 2007 when my husband and daughter attended the first Red Rally for the troops at CFB Gagetown. I planned to go as well but my three-year-old twins and I got sick and we had to stay home.
I remember my daughter Kari, who was nine-years-old at the time, coming home all excited about the day she had with her dad. She met Canadian Idol star Casey LeBlanc and Kari also co-created a human Canadian Flag with hundreds of other supporters for an aerial photo. That photo has a special place in our home and our hearts.
But another wonderful photo was created that day. It was the one people from all across this country saw two years later when they read about how her Dad and my beloved husband was killed in an IED strike in Afghanistan. It was the photo I chose to send to the media because it told the real story of our family, our sacrifice and Greg’s absolute dedication to his mission as a soldier serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
As I look back at that time now, I wonder about the series of events, which led up to our loss and how they have become so significant to me. The Red Friday Rally at CFB Gagetown was definitely one.
The following summer we were posted to Petawawa so Greg could participate on the next roto to Afghanistan. It was a troubling move and change for this military wife. My peacekeeper was now going to war.
That Christmas, in Petawawa, I went to the Canex and bought everyone in my family special Red Friday t-shirts and yellow ribbon magnets for the car. It was our most important gift that year: the gift of support. After all, where my husband was going, he would need all the support our family could muster.
We loved wearing our red shirts on Fridays. Everyone in Petawawa and Pembroke wore their red shirts. It didn’t matter where you went, to school, the bank, the post office or the grocery store, everyone working or patronizing was sporting red Support Our Troops shirts. It was and still is the way it is there. I didn’t ever have to remind the kids. All their friends and teachers were wearing red. We didn’t need to explain why we were wearing them. Everyone knew and understood the reason: to show our troops we support them.
However, since we’ve moved back home to Fredericton, it seems the sea of Red Friday support has dried up. My children and I seem to be the only ones supporting our troops in our community, our schools and places of business on Fridays. We live only 20 minutes away from CFB Gagetown. I see soldiers in our neighbourhood commuting home daily. We still have soldiers from our base engaged in battle and providing security in the war zone.
I am confused. Have the people in my hometown forgotten that our troops are still out there risking their lives? Have they misunderstood the reason for the cause? Has it become politically incorrect to wear red on Fridays? I wonder. I wonder every Friday when I put on my red t-shirt and look around to see if anyone else cares that my husband died at the hands of a brutal enemy; an enemy who would rejoice in the knowledge that some Canadians no longer care about supporting our troops.
For those of you who don’t know the origin of the Red Friday Support Our Troops campaign, here is a little background. According to Wikipedia, people in Canada wear red on Fridays to show support for troops serving in the Canadian Forces. Red was chosen because it is an official Canadian colour, and historically it is a colour of remembrance because it symbolizes the red poppies in Flanders Fields and the loss of life that the country has endured. The Canadian Red Friday tradition was started by two military wives, Lisa Miller and Karen Boire in Petawawa. They wanted to do something significant to show their beloved soldiers how much they honour and love them for their courage and loyalty to their country.
I say the Red Friday campaign is a real tribute to our soldiers and our country. We need to continue to show our support in this colourful way – to remind one another how important it is to thank these fine men and women for their courage and commitment to service. It is the least we can do…especially for those soldiers, like my Greg, who gave their lives in war so we can go on living in peace.
What do you say neighbour? Isn’t it time to dig out that red shirt and show the world we do care about our soldiers…at least until we can “bring ‘em all home safe!” CHIMO!