I have always been fascinated by history. Before I understood the horrific losses of WWI or WWII, I was transfixed by the ancient civilizations and what I saw as snapshots into the past. As I grew up, I came to understand how our history has shaped Canada into the country that we are today. History became less fun but more important to me. It isn’t just Canada’s roles in WWI or WWII need to be remembered, but the entire path which continues to the present day. The idea that history is doomed to repeat itself is terrifying, so remembering and learning from the past is essential.
Thinking about Remembrance Day makes my heart heavy. I am a proud Canadian, and I have some small idea of the sacrifices that our Canadian Forces have made both at home and abroad. These sacrifices aren’t contained to WWI or WWII either but also span to the present day and the very recent deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Cirillo.
Remembrance Day began as acknowledgement of the terrible death toll of the First World War and a time to mourn but it has evolved into a tribute to our entire military and a celebration of the Canadian Forces in general in a continuing tribute to their service.
The end of WWI and the Allied victory of 1918 came at a heavy cost. Armistice Day, recalling the ceasefire agreement of November 11, 1918, marked the end of more than four years of carnage and bloodshed. The poppy, the universal symbol of remembrance, was forever linked to the First World War and its casualties through John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields. Its use was first championed by American Moina Michael, who was entranced by McCrae’s poem and led a successful campaign to have the American Legion adopt the poppy as an official symbol of remembrance in 1920. It soon spread to France and by the following year it had also been adopted in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.
No matter where you are this November 11th, take the time to remember and think about the courage and sacrifices our Canadian Forces have made. We owe so much.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
~ Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (1872 – 1918)