The Harper government may be running for cover from the storm of controversy, but most of our troops in Afghanistan don't have a duck-and-hide option.
The fact is, the Afghan mission is a mess, and Joe and Jane Soldier are bearing the brunt. Who among us isn't deeply saddened by the news of ever increasing numbers of uniformed Canadians killed or seriously injured in the war.
But having said that, what does a Support Our Troops bumper sticker actually mean?
It's a question that arises courtesy of Toronto's fire and emergency services, which have decided to put yellow-ribbon Support Our Troops stickers on every ambulance, emergency service vehicle and fire truck in the city. On one level, there's always been an affinity between between emergency workers and Canadian Forces.
But how did this loaded message end up on key public service vehicles in the middle of a massive and bitter showdown over Canada's NATO mission without a public debate?
The first time I noticed the yellow exhortation on the back of a gleaming ambulance, I queried the driver. He shrugged and shook his head with disdain. Flicking the lapel of his jacket, he said, "They wanted us to wear yellow-ribbon lapel pins, too." He wasn't.
I also approached a young firefighter who looked bewildered at the large ribbon on the side of his fire truck. "I don't know why we have them. They just appeared one day," he said.
He's not the only one astounded. Peace activist Matthew Behrens tells me he first noticed the message when his daughter fell ill and had to be transported by ambulance.
"I was wearing my Homes Not Bombs T-shirt, and my first instinct was to cover it up," he says. "I was really upset. This is a service that has to deal impartially with people at their most vulnerable. Something this controversial - you'd think they would have vetted it."
That's for sure. Public and private sector organizations brood over their communications strategies with extreme caution - witness the stinging criticism the McGuinty Libs are getting over their Flick Off slogan.
So it's surprising that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Chief Bruce Farr only informed Mayor Miller and the rest of city council of the Support Our Troops decision in a letter last week - even though the stickers have graced ambulances and other emergency vehicles since October.
Paid for out of the EMS printing budget, the 400 decals cost $3,700. As for the fire department, the initiative came from union members of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters' Association. Fire Chief William Stewart gave the green light as long as the union footed the bill.
Fire and EMS officials are quick to point out that the sticker does not refer specifically to the Afghanistan campaign but to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces, wherever they are stationed. "The message does not focus upon any mission, at home or abroad," says EMS official Ric Rangel-Bron.
But Councillor Janet Davis, who sits on the community development and recreation committee, which oversees EMS, doesn't buy it. "I do connect the Afghan mission to the Support Our Troops sticker. That is where our troops are being killed," she says.
"Not only does this not communicate a city of Toronto policy, but it also sends a political message about a public policy matter that is quite contentious. And we shouldn't be using public funds for it." Even supporters of the sticker on the committee see the connection. "I think it is appropriate to show our support," says Councillor Frances Nunziata. "I see it as a reference to Afghanistan."
Though a critic of the Afghan war, committee chair Joe Mihevc says he's satisfied with the EMS explanation. "If Bruce Farr says it isn't political, I accept that and won't be bringing the issue forward at committee," he says.
"But as a general rule we don't put messaging on public vehicles." The yellow sticker gives ample evidence why.
It's left to EMS official Rangel-Bron to further clarify what he sees as the real meaning behind the missive. "If there is any message to be taken from the Support Our Troops campaign, it should be one of patriotism," he says.
Well, there you go. In wartime, patriotism is the great conversation ender - to our own peril.