Veteran offers simple explanation for wartime service

Leo Phillips tells a story about a soldier, just 24, who lost his right leg, right arm, right eye and his right ear while in combat. Yet when he is asked what message the wounded soldier wanted to pass on to his family and friends in Canada, all the young man said was, “Thank you.”

For the past eight years, around Remembrance Day, Major Phillips has told students at schools this kind of story.

“That tells you the character of Canadians. That’s what we represent…that’s sacrifice,” Phillips said. “Sometimes the younger generation doesn’t understand sacrifice.”

Phillips shares from his experiences as a deputy administration officer. When Phillips asked the wounded soldier why all he said was thank you, the man responded in kind.

“Thank you for letting me come over and try and do something good,” he said.

Phillips, 51, regularly offers talks to students about his experiences serving in the armed forces as well as talking about the importance and significance of commemorating Remembrance Day.

“Why should we remember?” he asks. “These are young men… Talk about courage. Courage to do … something you aren’t sure you’re coming back from. While you’re over there, you’re going to see the most horrific things you can imagine.”

He wants to ensure Remembrance Day is observed and not just for the sacrifices of soldiers.

“It’s not just remembering those who fought in the war. It’s remembering their families. … For every hundred soldiers that have died, that’s a hundred families that have sacrificed,” Phillips said. “If you see a veteran…please just take a second of your time to say, ‘Thank you.’”