For those who fought for our freedom in the past... we thank you!
For those representing Canada around the world today, we pray for your safety.
For those who will someday join the Canadian Forces, stand proud for your country for your country will be standing proud of you.
Freedom is Never Free
Today, you have the freedom to be governed by an elected Prime Minister (this is freedom of oppression). You have the freedom to have your own ideas without fear of imprisonment, the freedom to participate in open government, the freedom of the “pursuit of happiness”. But at what cost did this freedom come to you?
At 11 a.m. on November 11th in 1918, World War I was ended. One year later, in 1919, at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a perpetual flame was lit in honor of an unknown Canadian soldier. At that same moment, Britain observed the first 2-minutes of silence to commemorate those who had died in the Great War.
Since Canada’s Confederation in 1867, some 1.5 Million Canadians were called upon in military actions to defend peace and freedom around the world. More than 116,000 gave their lives in the wars of the 20th century and their final resting places are located in 74 countries. Following these terrible conflicts, Canada began looking for ways to prevent wars. Today, peacekeeping represents Canada’s longstanding commitment to the principles of peace and freedom. But why do we remember the people that died fighting in wars?
Because they died for us, for their homes and families and friends, for a collection of traditions they cherished and a future they believed in; they died for Canada. Our continued freedom and peacekeeping is their monument. It is our responsibility to maintain this monument in their honor.
The wars of the 20th century touched the lives of Canadians of all ages, all races, and all social classes. Fathers, sons, daughters, sweethearts were killed in action, were wounded, and many of those who returned were forever changed. Those who stayed in Canada also served – in factories, in voluntary service organizations, monitoring our seaways, harbors, and skies. They came from farms, from small towns and large cities across the country, riding high on the initial wave of fury, excitement, and patriotism. They joined Canada’s war effort prepared to defend, to care for the wounded, to prepare materials of war, and to provide support. War has always meant death, destruction, being away from loved ones, but in the minds of those who fought, these played a secondary role. For the men and women who gathered to support their cause, the threats of war seemed far away and unreal.
For many of us, war is viewed through the television or in the newspapers of battles fought in distant parts of the world. Our closest contact may be the discovery of wartime memorabilia in a family attic. But even items such as photographs, uniform badges, medals, and diaries can seem unconnected to the life of their owner. For those of us who were born during peacetime, all wars appear to be far removed from our daily activities.
As Canadians, we often take for granted our current way of life, our freedom to participate in cultural and political events, and our right to live under a government of our choice. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our constitution ensures that all Canadians enjoy protection under the law. The Canadians who went off to war in distant lands went in the belief that such rights and freedoms were being threatened. They truly believed King George VI when he spoke at the dedication of the National War Memorial in Ottawa 1939 and said, “Without freedom there can be no ensuring peace and without peace no enduring freedom.”
In remembering their sacrifices, we recognize the tradition of freedom they fought to preserve. These men and women had faith in the future and by their acts gave us the will to preserve peace for all time. On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the courage and gallantry of those who served their country.
During times of war, individual acts of heroism occurred frequently; only a few were recorded and received official recognition. In remembering all who served, we recognize the many who willingly endured the hardships and the fear so that we could live in peace.
For those who witnessed the realities of war, the desire for peace was evident. For all the wars and conflicts fought in far-off lands, there is much for us to remember. The Canadians faced difficult situations bravely and brought honor to themselves, their loved ones and to their country. Today, as you travel the countryside of Europe, complete strangers will walk up to a person wearing a Canadian flag to thank them for all they have done to ensure the freedom of their people.
During a battle in France in 1915, a Canadian soldier, John McCrae, wrote a poem symbolizing his idea how the poppies growing on the soldier’s graves represented his grief and hardship witnessed by all the volunteers. Shortly before the end of World War I, an American woman, Moina Michael, decided to begin wearing a poppy year-round in honour of all the war dead and wounded. Shortly afterwards, a friend visiting from France brought the idea back with her and soon enough the people of the World began wearing the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. Today, the money raised by the sale of poppies provides assistance for ex-service people in financial distress, as well as funding for medical appliances and research, home services, care facilities, and numerous other purposes.
So, why is freedom never free of cost? Because we must defend the right of freedom at all costs to allow humans to live, across our planet, in peace and freed of dictators, free of hunger, free to speak our minds openly, free to wear clothes to protect our bodies, free to learn truth, and free to decide. But most of all, it gives us the freedom to meet today to speak openly about the past and look to the future with comfort in our hearts.
Thank you my fallen and injured brothers and sisters, I Remember!