(Image via mandythebookworm.wordpress.com)
November 11 is a day of remembrance in Canada, as it is in many countries. It was at the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month that the armistice came into effect and ended what was supposed to be the last great war in 1918. Since then, however, Canadians have been involved in other wars and in peacekeeping duties.
The ceremonies that are held across this country remember the men and women who have served and continue to serve during times of war, conflict and peace. We remember those who served their country and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
From the Veterans Affairs Canada website:
By remembering their service and their sacrifice, we recognize the tradition of freedom these men and women fought to preserve. They believed that their actions in the present would make a significant difference for the future, but it is up to us to ensure that their dream of peace is realized. On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country and acknowledge our responsibility to work for the peace they fought hard to achieve.
There are different ways that we remember and pay homage. A poem that we learned as children, and that is recited at Remembrance Day ceremonies, is called the most famous poem of World War I. In Flanders Fields was written by Canadian John McCrae, a poet, army officer, and physician. According to the website The Great War 1914 – 1918, the poem was inspired by the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer.
(Image of John McCrae via greatwar.co.uk)
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915
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.
In the days leading up to Remembrance Day, people can be seen wearing poppies. The poppies have become a symbol for remembering fallen soldiers and are also used to raising funds to assist retired and injured soldiers. The BBC explains how the poppy became the international symbol of remembrance it is today.
In November 1918, a poem by Canadian military doctor John McCrae inspired American humanitarian Moina Michael to wear and distribute poppies in honour of fallen soldiers.
In Flanders Fields describes the first sign of life after death – small red plants that grew on the graves of soldiers buried in northern France and Belgium during World War I.
Two days before the armistice agreement was signed, Ms Michael bought and then pinned a red poppy to her coat. She gave other poppies out to ex-servicemen at the YMCA headquarters in New York where she worked.
The poppy was officially adopted by the American Legion at a conference two years later. At the same conference, a French woman named Madame E Guerin saw an opportunity for orphans and widows to raise money in France by selling the poppies.
Since then, they have become an international symbol of remembering fallen soldiers, especially in Commonwealth countries
Canadians have found a new way to honour and pay their final respects. When a soldier has fallen and their body is brought home to Canada, they are first brought to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, Ontario for a repatriation ceremony. Many times the soldier’s family makes the journey to Trenton and if the soldier is killed in action, a Minister of the Government (or his or her representative) will also be at the ceremony. The body is then taken from Trenton to Toronto, Ontario where all personnel who die in theatre undergo an autopsy.
The 172 km. stretch of highway between Trenton and Toronto, which is officially called Highway 401, is now known as the Highway of Heroes. It is along this stretch of highway that Canadians show their respects for a fallen soldier by standing along the side of the highway and on all the bridges and overpasses. The following video shows what the families see as they accompany the hearse to Toronto.
(Image via njnnetwork.com)
This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J