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Why Remembrance Day Matters in 2023

Remembrance Day matters

This is an update to a post I published in 2022

My father went to war 80 years ago with thousands of other men and women to bring us the freedoms we have today. These heroes deserve not only to be remembered, but to be honoured as well. And that’s why Remembrance Day matters.

I hope you’ll understand that, Remembrance Day isn’t just for veterans to get together and reminisce. It’s a day for the rest of us to recognize and honour the selfless sacrifices made by those heroes who put their lives on the line.

Remembrance Day matters-mom and dad's wedding day
Mom and Dad’s wedding day

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend, talking about Remembrance Day. She told me her mother didn’t like Remembrance Day because she believed it glorified war. I think she had missed the point of recognizing this special holiday. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill commercially hijacked holiday. I mean, just from a marketing perspective, you’ll never see ads for “Pre-Remembrance Day Deals!” That business would be run out of town on a rail!

No, Remembrance Day is not a festivity. It’s not a victory celebration or a reason to party like it’s 1999. It’s about recognizing and honouring the sacrifices millions of people made over the course of too many wars. Like my parents.

The smallest act of honouring is to wear a poppy. Because that’s something everyone can do. And it really doesn’t matter how old or young you are. This simple act shows you recognize the importance of the day.

Poppy Sales Are Dropping

But sadly, at least to me, fewer people are wearing poppies. Turns out the local Legions here on Vancouver Island are not handing out as many poppies as past years. So what’s happening? And honestly, why is there such a controversy around this little red flower?

I think a big part of it is, too many of us are disconnected from the meaning of Remembrance Day and their iconic red poppy. Others seem to think wearing a poppy glorifies war. This type of messaging does a terrible disservice to the reason for Remembrance Day.

Children aren’t exposed to what Remembrance Day stands for. Moreover their parents are younger, maybe without a living relative who served in the Armed Forces. And probably their only exposure is during their school’s Remembrance Day assembly.

Remembrance Day Matters

Have a conversation with your younger kids about Remembrance Day. But don’t just pin a poppy to your little one’s lapel. Explain the significance of the little red flower. Just let them know Remembrance Day matters.

Read the poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae. And talk to them, ask them questions and encourage their natural curiosity. Because there’s thousands of stories about these terrible times that don’t have to be frightening or disturbing. Stories of courage, sacrifice and personal conviction.

Remembrance Day matters-torpedoed freighter, Halifax
Torpedoed freighter

And this is why Remembrance Day matters. It is a day that helps us bridge generations. Moreover it is a day when wizened veterans sit in classrooms and school gymnasiums around the world, sharing personal stories, and answering the questions from the clusters of youngsters seated about.

Stop What You Are Doing

Every Remembrance Day in Canada, November 11, at 11 AM, everyone stops what they are doing, and observes a moment of silence. EVERYONE. And so if you’re out and about, running errands or shopping, take that moment and stop. If you’re at work, for those that must still work on this National holiday, stop what you’re doing, and take that moment to consider what this day means. Because Remembrance Day is not simply a day off work or school. It is a solemn holiday, not a time for celebrating. For me, it’s a time of reflection. I think about my parents, who married during wartime.

Dad and Mom

Their marriage started with sacrifice, as they were separated for months right after their ceremony. And I think about my Dad, who joined the Navy and served much of World War II on a Corvette in the North Atlantic and Pacific. A prairie boy who was suddenly sent to the sea, hunting subs and trying not to freeze to death or drown.

Iced over bridge in the North Atlantic

As A Family, Remembrance Day Matters

And so my children have grown up in a household that honours Remembrance Day. They too, know that Remembrance Day is a big deal. From participating in assemblies at school, to marching in local parades and Cenotaph ceremonies, my kids understand the significance of the day. And just the other day I was once again reminded of their commitment to Remembrance Day.

My daughter Beth-Rose texted me while she was at school. “We’re watching Peter Jackson’s WWI movie in class.” “Good movie!”, I replied. “Yeah, I’m excited”, she answered. Wow!

They Shall Not Grow Old

And if you haven’t seen it, go watch “They Shall Not Grow Old” on whatever streaming service is currently carrying it. Or rent it. I don’t care. Just find a way to see it. Because it’s a brilliantly brutal, honest and beautiful depiction of World War I from a British veteran’s perspective.

I’m thrilled knowing that my children take the responsibility of honouring our veterans so seriously. I think it would be great to see more parents of young kids find a way of instilling that responsibility in their own children. Because it’s important. Because Remembrance Day is a big deal. Remembrance Day matters.

remembrance day matters
Me showing Beth-Rose how proud I am of her!
In Flanders Fields
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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Eric Hislop
Eric Hislop
5 months ago

Nicely written Michael, thank you.
I suppose as you wrote that this younger generation have nobody associated with war and loss, whereas we grew up surrounded by it.
From the time I was about 4 we went every year with my Dad down to the small war memorial in the village square for the memorial service.
I still remember standing shivering in the driving rain or sleet.( In Scotland guaranteed)
If you complained about feeling cold you were given a quiet but sharp reminder of what thousands of soldiers suffered.
The village square was always packed, the audience dotted with many ex-servicemen on crutches and in wheelchairs waiting and remembering in sad silence.
The service was always about hope for the future but we should never forget how such horror came to pass.

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