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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Flanders Fields BY JOHN MCCRAE 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.