Lest We Forget

  For some reason the holiday that makes me most proud of being Canadian (even when I’ve been an American citizen for 3 1/2 years) is Remembrance Day.  Canada’s participation in world conflicts have been relatively small, but the sacrifices made were no less significant, especially in the two World Wars.  Only until maybe 15 years ago the day was almost sacred in my hometown of Winnipeg — virtually everything was closed and the only items you could legally buy on that day (if you could find a store that was open) was milk and bread; and even today there are place names in the city relating to the First World War.

  Even as a kid I think I grasped the solemnity of the day.  It was always a day off of school, but on November 10th there was always a school assembly with a veteran or two talking about war.  Then the Last Post was played prior to a moment of silence, which to this day still makes me weep. 

  Remembrance Day was initially established to honor the Armistice that ended World War I and pay respect to all of the victims of that conflict, and it has continued as a tribute to all who have fallen for their country. 

  One of the other constants in the Remembrance Day commemorations of my youth was the recitation of the poem In Flanders FieldsI can still recite this poem by heart, and even though I perhaps didn’t fully understand it then, I read it every year and thank all of the veterans then and now who have given so much for all of us:

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.

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