November is the month of Remembrance for Canadians, when cities remember the fallen members of the armed forces in the world’s wars, both Canadian and American service men and women. Here in Canada, it isn’t just one day, Nov. 11, when Canadians honor the memory of those slain in war, but for the entire month.
Remembrance Day (sometimes known informally as Poppy Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the day is also marked by war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November in most countries to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. In the United States, we observe Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11. Hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,” in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. (“At the 11th hour” refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 am.) The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919, seven months later.
On November 1 each year, the Field of Crosses is erected at the edge of Memorial Drive along the Bow River in Calgary. Here we find crosses of servicemen (I didn’t see any women’s names) killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and in Afghanistan. Almost 100 years worth of slain young men, the majority in their 20s.
Among the crosses are some Stars of David.
Among the Canadian flags are American flags, commemorating those young Americans who fought with Canadian troops, and paid the final sacrifice.
We rode our bikes to visit the Field of Crosses this morning, to walk among the names of the men, and to read brief histories of some of the men that had been written by some students at the local Catholic schools, a worthy research project.
The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.
As Tom commented during our quiet meandering among the crosses, “When will we ever learn?”
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.