On November 11th: We Remember
As each year passes, I always feel a bit heavy hearted when it comes to Remembrance Day. With the aging population, it seems each year there are fewer and fewer war veterans around to share their story and their heroism. On my maternal side, we have many veterans and on November 11 they gather in their small town in Saskatchewan to pay tribute to their fallen friends and to the freedoms we all have today due to their bravery. My nana’s husband had a harrowing story – one too long to share in its entirety here – where he was shot during the Battle of the Scheldt by German soldiers. Having been raised in a German speaking household in rural Saskatchewan he began to repeat the Lord’s Prayer as the soldiers closed in. In hearing his prayer in their native tongue they dragged him to a Canadian camp hospital and his life was saved. He came back from the war and 50 years later married his high school sweetheart – my nana. In 2002, he succumbed to the injuries from his gunshot that occurred some 60 years prior. He was a spectacular man. (….and you thought The Notebook was emotional?)
Two years ago I had the privilege of accompanying twenty students and two colleagues on an incredible World War I trip to Europe (which also took us to some historical WWII sites). We travelled through Amsterdam, Belgium and France and visited many important historical sites where Canadians fought bravely for the freedom we have today. We went to Vimy Ridge, the Canadian War Cemetery Beny-sur-Mer, Juno Beach (which was one of the five beaches of D-Day) and the Anne Frank Museum. We also visited several museums dedicated to the history of the world wars, the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres was highly engaging, full of WWI artifacts. The trip was an incredible opportunity, giving us a very unique Canadian experience in Europe. The one thing that stood out to me as we visited several cemeteries was how young the thousands of men were who so bravely fought for our country. So many of them were just kids and they gave their lives for our country, for us. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for so many men to say goodbye to their mothers, sisters, wives and children and head off to war, hoping that they would one day return. It is so important that we continue to honor their sacrifices. It is so important that we remember and that we teach our children to remember.
In any event, before the Christmas flurry let’s take some time to reflect and remember. How can we do our part? We’ve compiled a list of easy ways to get you and your family involved in this important day.
- Buy a poppy!! Each year the Royal Canadian Legion fills our malls and streets with their poppy stores. While it is by donation, being generous not only feels good but helps make a difference in financially supporting our veterans.
- Teach our kids “In Flanders Fields“. It is a powerful reminder of the reality our veterans faced. The book A Poppy is the Remember is a great way to introduce the idea of Remembrance Day to younger children and it contains “In Flanders Fields”.
- Attend a ceremony or an event. Below is a link for a variety of events held in and around Calgary. 30 ways to Observe Remembrance Day in Calgary
- Quite simply – thank a veteran. The difficulties they have faced and continue to face stretch far beyond the actual years served in the war.