This morning Roy and I joined about two hundred other people for the 2009 Remembrance Day ceremony in Andrew. With about 30 or 40 military personnel from One Service Battalion Administration Company in Edmonton, it was an impressive sight. The program at the community hall followed the parade to the cenotaph, two minutes of silence and the laying of two wreaths. Nearly 30 more wreaths were laid in the hall by groups and businesses. Two Mounties in red serge, several young air cadets, fire department personnel, MP Leon Benoit, and Mayor and Council were on hand for the program. A hot meal and beverages were then served to all present.
A similar program played out in communities across the country. In every locale and in every speech there is reference to the phrase ?lest we forget.? I feel confident forgetting is not the issue. Each year there seems to be increased emphasis on the importance of the day. The recitation of ?In Flanders Fields? and the wearing of a poppy are all I remember doing as a school child to mark the occasion. Today children are part of letter writing campaigns, have military personnel visit their schools, and attend services in their communities. Some older students had the chance to research fallen soldiers and be part of the Vimy Ridge Memorial dedication ceremony.
On pleasure trips to Europe people seek out historically significant places. Our daughter has visited Vimy Ridge. Our son and daughter-in-law have visited Auschwitz.
Today, in addition to the traditional red poppy, we can buy a white poppy to signify peace, a Vimy Ridge pin, and magnetic I Support the Troops ribbons for our cars. We can tie yellow ribbons around trees, we can line highways and bridge decks during repatriation ceremonies. We can lobby to have roads renamed the Highway of Heroes. We can admire the murals being painted to honour each fallen Canadian in the Afghanistan War. We can wear red on Fridays in support of the troops.
Many of us can and do find a way to remember the past and honour present sacrifices. Not long ago I went up to a table in an Edmonton restaurant where five military personnel from nearby Edmonton Garrison were eating. I simply laid my hand over my poppy and said ?Thank you for what you are doing.? We can also listen when these people speak. Today a man who was drafted into the Vietnam War at age 18 still remembers the terrible impact it had on his life.
I don’t know if we should be in Afghanistan or not. I don’t know if the 133 lives lost to date is a small price to pay for the overall good of the world or not. I do know I’m eternally grateful some people are willing to risk all for the rest of us. I don’t intend to forget. The survivors and colleagues of the current fallen and injured personnel will ensure they too are remembered. Remembering and honouring isn’t limited to two minutes once a year, from where I sit.