I have attended remembrance services in several locations over the years: Stoney Creek, Kingston, the Village of Lanark, Ottawa, Galt, and Hespeler. I always find it very moving when different groups lay wreaths: Community groups, heritage organizations, schools, kids organizations like Scouts, Veteran’s organizations, the police and government, individual families… Some feel the sting of laying that wreath more acutely than others. It feels a little voyeuristic to just watch someone’s grief poured out like that.
My Uncle Jack and Uncle Beano were both WW2 veterans. When Child was considering joining cadets, he spoke to Uncle Jack about which force he should follow. My Uncle Jack said he didn’t regret for a minute being a member of the Canadian Army. That was all Child needed to hear.
Today is the last time Connor will attend remembrance services as a cadet. This is the 7th time he has put on his cadet dress kit and spent his morning with his peers. This year, he is the RSM, so he leads his corps in the parade and at the services at the cenotaph in Galt. He goes because he knows soldiers who came back from both battles and peacekeeping missions, and he knows that other families weren’t so lucky. He’s starting to know currently serving soldiers and officers who are getting deployed to Mali. Next year, he might be an officer cadet at the Royal Military College, starting his own service to the Canadian Armed Forces. And because the men and women for whom we lay wreaths today are his brethren. May all our convictions be as strong as his have been.
Today, people like me attend remembrance services to reflect on the military contributions of people they’ve never met. People to whom they do no share a bloodline. People to whom they just want to say thanks, and that’s a very solid reason to go. Today, people like me attend remembrance services to remember uncles and great grandparents that they never met. People like me attend remembrance services for childhood friends who are now in the military, friends who have served in active duty and come back needing help, and friends who have served at home. We attend for children’s friends who have recently been called up, or are waiting impatiently for the call. Today, people like me go because you don’t have to go very many degrees of separation to have the military – current or past – touch your life.
After the ceremony today, after chairs are put away and wreaths are tucked away for another year, I will walk I’ll walk over to the cenotaph in Preston. I’ll take with me the lost poppies I’ve collected from parking lots and on sidewalks where Louie and I walk in the evening. Tonight, I’ll return the forlorn poppies back where they belong. I like having a few minutes in the quiet of night to stand in front of the cenotaph, alone with my thoughts. I hope you all find some quiet time today to do the same.
May the draw of Remembrance services never be lost on us. Lest we forget.