Remembrance Day should be regarded as one of the most important days of the year in Canada, and not because it has been designated as a statutory holiday.
It’s a chance for us to say “thank you” to those who have served our country, whether it be personally through direct conversation, or symbolically by attending a Remembrance Day service or wearing a poppy.
This year in particular is an important one, because it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
It’s been nearly a decade since John Babcock, Canada’s last surviving First World War veteran, died in 2010. For millions of Canadians, they never had the opportunity of meeting or talking to a veteran of the Great War.
It’s a lost link to the history of the country.
Sadly, the number of Second World War veterans is rapidly dropping as well. There’s about 61,000 veterans from that war still alive in Canada, and the average age of those veterans is now 92. Many of them are in failing health.
Fifteen years ago, you would see several rows of Second World War veterans during the Remembrance Day service in Estevan. They still held key leadership roles with the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, ranging from president to sergeant at arms to executive member. They were living independently at home, and still active in the community.
Now there are just a few veterans from the Second World War who are still alive in Estevan.
So take the time to thank them for their service, and for the freedoms that they have made possible for us to enjoy. Let them know how much you appreciate what they did for you 70 years ago.
Their sacrifice was not only for Canadians, but those who were to come in future generations. Those who died serving their country were never able to see how great their country would become, how it would change and how it would make so many contributions to the world.
We are losing a valuable link to our past, and before too long, there won’t be any veterans from the Second World War who will still be alive.
There are also the veterans who have served our country in the present day. They also deserve our gratitude. They have fought in Afghanistan and other combat missions, or they have had peacekeeping roles around the world. Regardless of whether it’s been combat or peacekeeping missions, they have been wonderful ambassadors for our country.
Canada has a rich military history. Canadians have done great things for a relatively small country, population-wise, and our soldiers remain among the best-trained in the world.
Remembrance Day this year is going to be particularly special, because of the 100-year milestone. The Estevan branch of the Royal Canadian Legion hopes to see a particularly large crowd for the service; we hope to see that large crowd as well.
The legion is moving the service to the school’s gymnasium, in part, to accommodate the additional people. They’re going to have the annual cenotaph ceremony at the gymnasium as well.
They’ll have a guest speaker in local military historian Craig Bird, who has done extensive research on the First World War, and the role Canada played in that conflict.
And there will be other special touches applied to this year’s ceremony to make it unique.
It will be a chance for us to say thank you by attending the service.
But hopefully saying thank you won’t end once the ceremony is over.