Give pause on Re­mem­brance Day

The Amherst News - - LEST WE FORGET -

Through­out his­tory, mil­lions of sol­diers have marched into wars to pro­tect the free­doms of their coun­tries. Re­mem­brance Day is a solemn time to com­mem­o­rate those sol­diers’ achieve­ments and sac­ri­fices and to pay re­spects to sol­diers who died in bat­tle. In British Com­mon­wealth coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries, in­clud­ing Canada, Novem­ber 11 is known as Re­mem­brance Day. Since the end of World War I, memo­ri­als to re­mem­ber those of the armed forces who fought in bat­tle and per­ished in the line of duty have been ded­i­cated on this day. Ar­mistice Day ori­gins Re­mem­brance Day was once known as Ar­mistice Day be­cause it marks the sign­ing of the ar­mistice that put an end to the hos­til­i­ties of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, guns fell silent af­ter more than four years of con­tin­u­ous war­fare be­tween the Ger­mans and Al­lied troops. The ar­mistice agree­ment was signed in a French train car­riage at 11 a.m. Later, the car­riage where the his­toric event took place was placed in a spe­cially con­structed build­ing to serve as a mon­u­ment to the de­feat of Ger­many. Al­though it was moved by Ger­man forces and later de­stroyed dur­ing World War II, af­ter that war ended a re­place­ment car­riage, cor­rect in ev­ery de­tail, was reded­i­cated on Ar­mistice Day in 1950. Re­mem­brance Day evo­lu­tion Ar­mistice Day was re­named Re­mem­brance Day af­ter World War II to com­mem­o­rate sol­diers from both world wars. It is now used as a way to pay hom­mage to any fallen sol­dier. Each year a na­tional cer­e­mony takes place at the Ceno­taph in White­hall, Lon­don, a mon­u­ment erected as a memo­rial to sol­diers buried else­where. The Queen will lay the first wreath at the Ceno­taph, while oth­ers will leave wreaths and small wooden crosses. In Canada, Re­mem­brance Day is a statu­tory hol­i­day in many prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries. Of­fi­cial na­tional cer­e­monies are held at the Na­tional War Memo­rial in Ot­tawa. Events be­gin with the tolling of the Car­il­lon in the Peace Tower, dur­ing which mem­bers of the Cana­dian Forces par­tic­i­pate and con­gre­gate at Con­fed­er­a­tion Square. Sim­i­lar cer­e­monies take place in provin­cial cap­i­tals across the coun­try. Very of­ten mo­ments of si­lence are of­fered for lost lives. What about the pop­pies? One of the uni­fy­ing sym­bols of Re­mem­brance Day is the poppy that is worn to honor lost sol­diers. The bold, red color of the flower has be­come an en­dur­ing sym­bol of those who died so that oth­ers may be free. The poppy be­came a sym­bol for a spe­cific rea­son. Some of the most con­cen­trated and bloody fight­ing of World War I took place in Flan­ders, a re­gion in west­ern Bel­gium. As a re­sult of the fight­ing, most signs of nat­u­ral life had been oblit­er­ated from the re­gion, leav­ing be­hind mud and not much else. The only liv­ing thing to sur­vive was the poppy flower, which bloomed with the com­ing of the warm weather the year af­ter fight­ing in the re­gion had ceased. Pop­pies grow in dis­turbed soil and can lie dor­mant in the ground with­out ger­mi­nat­ing. With­out the war, they may have never come to the sur­face. John Mc­Crae, a doc­tor serv­ing with the Cana­dian Armed Forces, was moved by the vi­sion of pop­pies flow­er­ing in Flan­ders and wrote a poem ti­tled “In Flan­ders Fields.” Af­ter the poem was pub­lished, it re­ceived in­ter­na­tional ac­claim, and the poppy be­came a pop­u­lar sym­bol of those lost in bat­tle. Men tra­di­tion­ally wear the poppy on the left side of the chest, where a mil­i­tary medal would be placed. Women wear it on the right side be­cause that is where a widow would wear her hus­band’s medals. Re­mem­brance Day is cel­e­brated ev­ery year, pro­vid­ing peo­ple hum­bled by the sac­ri­fices of sol­diers an op­por­tu­nity to re­mem­ber those sol­diers’ ef­forts to se­cure free­dom.

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