Disappointed in the lack of empathy many children showed for Remembrance Day, two small town teachers made it their mission to bring the stories from the Afghan Conflict to students. Since their project, “They Too Shall Remember,” launched in 2012, the pair has made dozens of videos to educate children on the importance of remembrance.
Brian Long, a sixth-grade teacher at Madoc Public School, noticed over several years of teaching that his students were not as connected to remembrance and Canadian conflicts as they once were. This hit Long the hardest three years ago when he decided to take his students to the cenotaph. Long recalls many children didn’t know what a cenotaph was and he felt both frustrated and shocked.
“Our theory is that they don’t have people to make that connection with them. For example, my generation had our grandfathers. We would go to the cenotaph with our grandfathers on Remembrance Day and that was my connection to it. But the kids now these days are too far removed from that. It’s there great-grand parents at best, and most of them aren’t around anymore, unfortunately, so we just think they don’t have that personal connection anymore,” explained Long.
Realizing it was just a matter of educating children, Long teamed up with fellow teacher, Maurice McFadden who felt similar, and launched the “They Too Shall Remember” project. Both had some experience in media, Long as a former radio journalist and McFadden as a former videographer, and decided to use the videos, via YouTube, as the platform to tell their stories. They chose the Afghan Conflict, hoping it would draw students in to learn more.
“We could tell them stories about people that were not much older than them in most cases and had similar interests. We tell them about some of these men and women who enjoyed skateboarding or playing hockey and kids can make that connection now. It’s not the old black and white photos or stories of great grandparents, which, by the way, are absolutely important, but we need to hook them in first before telling those stories,” said Long.
The results from the videos Long and McFadden made were just what they had hoped for. Children grew interested in the stories and began writing letters to some of the families. Many of the students even eagerly decided to take part in a memorial ceremony at CFB Trenton, each holding up a poster of a fallen soldier.
“I’ll meet kids in the hall that I taught a couple of years ago, and they’ll still bring up some of the stories they heard. It definitely had the effects we wanted. It’s just to make them aware, just to kind of make them sit up,” said Long.
This year the duo decided to take that message across the country, with a goal of showing each child in Canada the videos. They’ve reached out to superintendents and school board officials across Canada, receiving positive feedback. They’ve also used smart board technology to share the videos nationwide.
Over the past three years, the duo has made dozens of videos. Some of the videos interview families of fallen soldiers, some videos are about veterans who returned safely back to Canada. Other videos draw attention to organizations like Soldiers of Suicide or the Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Association.
Each video is then posted onto YouTube. What started out as a project for his students has ultimately changed and affected Long as well.
“We come away from away an interview, and as we are driving away, it’s completely silent in the car because what we just heard is so hard to wrap our minds around. We’re both fathers, both of us have children, and here we are listening to someone talk to us about how their child was killed. It’s tough. We’ve definitely cried with our interviewees,” said Long.
Along with the emotional, they’ve also found many inspiring stories.
“Some of them were just really outstanding people in their lives… we interviewed a family near Barrie and the mom described him [her son] as a good soul. We’re finding that a lot of these folks get into that career, or one of the reasons often times, is that they’re interested in helping others and someone interested in helping others is generally a good person. It’s very inspiring,” noted Long.
Long and McFadden are hoping to do a similar campaign next year. Ideally they’d like to do one video for each fallen soldier of the Afghan Conflict but for now are planning to cover more stories across the nation.
Long hopes the videos are only a gateway for students to learn more about the men and women who serve Canada.
“My main message to everybody has always been just investigate, look into some of these people, not only watch a video, but I want people to be curious enough to then go onto the internet and search that person up and learn more about them,” said Long.
Above photo: Private Will Cushley.