During the Battle of Ypres in 1915, Canadian lieutenant-colonel John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields when he saw poppies growing beside a grave of a close friend who died in battle. The poem triggered the adoption of the poppy as the flower of remembrance in Canada, Britain, France, the United States and Commonwealth countries. Poppies are now a visual pledge to never forget Canadians who have fallen in war and military operations, and a symbol of remembrance.
Residents of the Powell River area have been wearing poppies leading up to Remembrance Day as a way to honour those responsible for the freedom they enjoy every day.
COVID-19 has resulted in many cancellations of Remembrance Day celebrations, including at the cenotaph in Townsite. People are being asked to stay away from Veteran’s Memorial Park on November 11, and the streets surrounding it. A scaled down local ceremony is by invite only in order to ensure provincial guidelines for gatherings are followed.
When the clock strikes 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, everyone can still take a pause and reflect on people who sacrificed their lives to afford us the freedom we know today; they just have to do it in their own space.
Whoever does that honours the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the future freedom of their family, friends and compatriots. Attending events can enhance feelings of gratitude and respect for veterans, but a quiet moment alone or as part of a small group, at home or at a favourite outdoor location, also suffices to honour and remember former and current military members.
We all share a responsibility to remember the fallen, the wounded, the families, veterans and the serving. Showing gratitude is a way to honour veterans who fought for us; it is not necessary to be among a crowd to do so.
November is an important month for veterans. Donations from the distribution of millions of replica poppies leading up to Remembrance Day provide funds for the Royal Canadian Legion that go toward helping veterans in our community.
Remembering veterans serves more than one purpose. Keeping memories alive and continuing to honour those who served their countries are the best ways to avoid war in the future, and eliminate war as a way to solve conflict and injustice.
For two minutes on November 11, stop thinking about coronavirus, stop thinking about the aftermath of the election south of the border, stop thinking about the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They’ll still be around to contemplate later.
Ceremonies and vigils for fallen soldiers are important for healing the wounds of war while generations of families still deal with unfathomable loss. However, Remembrance Day should also be about recognizing and supporting recent veterans and current soldiers who are still here, and ensuring they receive the help they need.
Think about soldiers and the sacrifice they and their families made in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Afghanistan, and during peacekeeping missions and other conflicts. Think about veterans still living among us; we still have the chance to properly thank and honour them.
Remembrance Day has been observed since 1919, just a year after the end of World War I. 2020 is a different year in many ways, but not when it comes to Remembrance Day.
Support veterans, wear a poppy, think, remember, reflect.
Lest we forget.