This is the time of year I like to kick back, relax and throw in a good old World War II movieâ€¦ and thank the heavens I didn’t have to experience for myself the living hell that our troops had to go through on the battlefields. I cower away on my sofa, let alone in a fox hole.
Of course today is Remembrance Day in Canada as well as most other Commonwealth Countries. Remembrance Day was first held throughout the Commonwealth in 1919 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It marked the time (in the United Kingdom) when the German armistice became effective one year prior. It has been observed ever since to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the military and civilians alike in times of war.
In Canada, we sacrificed more than 110,000 combatants in the two world wars and continue still to spill blood in Afghanistan going on ten years. Believe it or not, I don’t think we as a country do nearly enough to remember these facts.
I do wear a poppy proudly over my heart and I’m sure many Canadians remember where the symbolism comes from. It comes from the poppies that bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders in World War I, a visualization made clear in Canadian military physician John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. I love the poem as many Canadians do, but I can’t help but think that people remember the poppy more than the men, women and battles that were fought.
It has been more than ninety years since the end of the Great War and its heroes have all but faded away into history, the same will soon be true for veterans of the Second World War. Pretty soon there will be no more first hand accounts of the biggest conflict the earth has ever seen. It’s now more important than ever to get their stories into books, movies and documentaries for the world to reflect on.
Europe and the United States have done a great job in telling a lot of these stories through various media facets. Band of Brothers, Europa Europa, Enemy at the Gates and many others are all great books and/or movies, great at telling personal stories about bravery, heroism and sacrifice. Passchendaele aside, Canada has fallen far short in telling these same types of tales. Why can’t the Canadian government help to fund films about Vimy Ridge, The Battle of the Somme, Juno Beach or the liberation of Holland? It’s these stories that would truly allow us to remember and appreciate the sacrifices our troops made and we might just feel a little pride on the side.
The last thing I feel I should mention is the fact that Remembrance Day in Canada is a public holiday everywhere except Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba. I can’t understand the logic behind this, but I think it’s time these three provinces followed the rest of the herd.
Nevertheless, regardless of whether you’re taking part in a parade, watching Saving Private Ryan for the tenth time or leaving poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, remember to remember today at 11:11