Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Day 2012

Since I was an elementary school student, I have participated in Remembrance Day ceremonies as a student, performer and teacher. Although it is a federal statutory holiday, since some time in the 1970s, most of us in Ontario, unfortunately no longer get the day off work and school. I really miss having that day to reflect.

Since retiring, I've not gone to any Cenotaph services; instead, I've watched the coverage on TV from Parliament Hill or wherever I've been out and about, stopped at 11am to honour our fallen men and women.

I have written about what this day means to me personally here, here and here. This year, the weather forecast was favourable (17C!) and it was a Sunday. I knew my friend, Suzanne, had toyed with the idea of attending the services in Ottawa but that never came to fruition so I asked her if she was interested in going with me today. Skip had an appointment and wouldn't be joining us.

We decided to go to Memorial Park in Oshawa as it has a large monument and it is directly across the street from where Suzanne works and where she has attended services for the past few years.

By the time we arrived, most of the processional had taken place. We crossed the street to the park just at the end of the tank procession.

There were thousands of people there, largely due to it not being a regular work day and because of the stunning, early fall weather. It was great to see lots of parents with their young children.

The service was organized by the two Oshawa Royal Canadian Legions and included, hymns ("O God, Our Help in Ages Past" and "Abide With Me") performed by the Salvation Army Band, rifle salutes, recitations, bible verses, prayers, speakers representing the City of Oshawa, the provincial and federal government and the youth of Oshawa and a final blessing by the Padre of the Royal Canadian Legion. There really is nothing like a blessing given in a rich English accent. And as I remember doing since I was in elementary school, the singing of "God Save the Queen". We were sent on our way with the words from a plaque on the monument:

Compared to other Remembrance Day ceremonies, I've attended, I missed a couple of things today. First, the laying of the wreaths had been done at an earlier time so we didn't get to witness that.
Also, I missed hearing "O! Valiant Hearts", my favourite hymn of remembrance and was surprised the band didn't play it.
Cadets marshaling at the end of the ceremony

After the ceremony, Suzanne and I wandered over to the Cenotaph to lay our poppies there. Since 7pm last night, a series of cadets have taken two-hour shifts standing vigil a corner of the monument.  
Capt. Dale Gray of the Ontario Army Cadet Corps was quoted in a 2010 interview, "It's in remembrance to the veterans and the names of the people that are on the cenotaph in the city of Oshawa and for those people who are with the Ontario Regiment who are now serving overseas in Afghanistan."  

I took a panoramic shot to try to illustrate how many people were there.

Over at the Cenotaph, I took my time looking at the wreaths and inscriptions on the monument. There is a 'tile' representing battle arenas, the most recent being in Afghanistan (circled). The monument (as were many in Canada) was erected after The Great War (WWI) and subsequent wars and conflicts have been added, in some cases, there isn't any more room.
I was quite surprised that the stone actually came from Westminster Abbey.
The Cenotaph is quite an imposing structure.
There are stones from Vimy Ridge (where my great-uncle Carl K. Brown was wounded and died three days later), Virginia, Belgium, Japan and Egypt.
At the other end, stones from other significant places are commemorated.
It was a wonderful way to spend an hour this morning, paying our respects to those who have fought abroad and lost their lives defending Canada and aiding other countries in need of our help. Since 2002, 158 members of our armed forces have given their lives.

May we always remember.

1 comment:

  1. HI Geri,
    I always tear up watching the Remembrance Day ceremonies on TV.
    My grandfather died Aug 28 1944 in Italy and is buried there. My mother was only 2 years old at the time so never knew her father. Would love to visit his grave someday.