On November 11th many of us will gather at the cenotaph in our community to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies. Too many more will use this day off to work, play, or shop. Maybe we’d all benefit from a reminder of the history and significance of this day.
World War I ended on November 11, 1918. In 1919, King George V dedicated November 11th to the members of the armed forces killed during the war. Commemorating the end of hostilities, Armistice Day (as it was originally called), was observed throughout Britain and the Commonwealth and came to symbolize the end of the war and provided an opportunity to remember the fallen. After World War II ended in 1945, the name was changed to Remembrance Day to include all those who had fallen in both World Wars and later conflicts.
If we ever stop remembering the sacrifice of over one hundred thousand who lost their lives in these wars, it will become meaningless. They died for us, for traditions they cherished, for a future they believed in. They died for Canada. The meaning of their sacrifice lies within our collective national consciousness.
By remembering their service we recognize the tradition of freedom these men and women fought to preserve. They believed their actions would ensure a future of peace. On Remembrance Day we honour their courage and sacrifice. And we acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they fought to achieve.
Remembrance Day is a day of symbolism, observance, and meaning. The poppies we’ve been wearing for a couple of weeks are the most visible sign that we understand, that we remember, and that we are grateful. They come from the poem, ?In Flanders Fields,? written by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving in the military. They grew wild in the battlefields and in the graveyards. Their colour reminds us of the blood shed for our freedom. Whether worn singly on our lapels or in the wreaths we lay, it is important that we keep supporting veterans through poppy sales.
Another symbol is the war memorial that my town of Andrew, like many communities, has erected in a place of prominence. It commemorates those lost in military action. Ottawa’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is where, in the year 2000, the remains of a Canadian soldier who was never identified were laid. It is the location of Canada’s official program of prayer and wreath laying.
Finally, Canada’s most prominent tribute overseas is the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. The inscription on the memorial reads:
To the valour of their countrymen in the Great War
and in memory of their sixty thousand dead
this monument is raised by the people of Canada.
So even though we know why and how we should remember the question remains: will we? Will we set aside the hour or so to remind our children and grandchildren of the right thing to do? The answer’s clear, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.