For many people Remembrance Day is the occasion to remember soldiers who were killed or fought in the First or Second World Wars.
Those two world wars are particularly notable for many because of the scale of the loss of life. More than 100,000 Canadian soldiers died in those two wars alone. Many more were mentally and physically injured.
This year we have special reasons to remember the First World War as we mark the 100th anniversary of key conflicts in Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. Vimy Ridge was considered a defining moment for Canada as its troops distinguished themselves for bravery and success in battle. But the human costs were monumental with 10,000 soldiers killed at Vimy Ridge and 4,000 more lost at Passchendaele.
While the scale of those losses was horrific, Canadian soldiers have paid the ultimate price in other wars and conflicts including the Korean War, Boer War, and conflicts in Afghanistan; 516 Canadians died in Korea, 267 in South Africa and more than 150 in Afghanistan.
When we think of the word ‘veteran’, many of us instinctively picture an older person. But there are younger veterans too and we still have soldiers on active duty. This weekend especially, we wish to thank and honour anyone who has served this country.
On Monday St. Albert school children were among more than 7,500 students across the country to gather at cemeteries to honour military veterans by placing poppies on gravestones as part of the No Stone Left Alone program. Eighty-five-year-old Korean War veteran Gord Carter laid one of the wreaths at the St. Albert Municipal Cemetery during that ceremony. While most of the survivors of the First and Second World Wars are no longer here to help us remember, Remembrance Day ceremonies, special exhibits and history tell the stories of our soldiers.
Bob Fagan, past president of the St. Albert Royal Canadian Legion, said it’s important that ceremonies such as No Stone Left Alone keep the memories alive of those who have served.
Today many Canadian soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives in Canada’s effort to do its part to create stability in the world. They leave their families and friends and are dispatched to trouble spots around the world on many missions including peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts. This year as we mark our 150th birthday as a country it is worth considering the contributions Canadian soldiers have made through the generations.
On Saturday when we mark Remembrance Day let’s pause to reflect both soldiers of the past who have served in previous battles, and the soldiers of today who continue to serve our country.
These men and women sacrificed so that we can live in a free and democratic society. We owe it to them to remember that, and remember we will.