The Remembrance Day Ceremony held every year at the Cenotaph next to Parliament in Ottawa is one that is televised across the country, and which several thousand spectators attend. For me however, this day marks a tradition that my family holds of driving to Ottawa and attending the ceremony to honour those who have fought and fallen for our country. The morning began with a blustery walk through quiet downtown Ottawa with other spectators, some in uniform, others just bundled up families and boisterous school groups. As we found our spot along the metal barriers, the cold autumn wind blew leaves across a somber gray sky.
The ceremony began with the arrival of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Governor General David Johnston and the Silver Cross Mother Patty Braun (a mother of a fallen soldier chosen to represent mothers who have lost children to combat). After O Canada, the Last Post was played before a moment of silence at 11:00 sharp, which was marked with the tolling bells of the Peace Tower and the First Gun. The second gun to mark the end of the silence was startling, as though the silence was not quite long enough.
There were speeches, prayers, benedictions and solemn songs sung by a children’s choir, but the words are not important. The ceremony was concluded by the traditional march of the Veterans. A pipe band garlanded with purple and red tartan and leopard skin led the parade of Second World War, Korean and Peacekeeping veterans marching vigorously behind. They were followed by shiny young RMC students, along with members of the Royal Canadian Navy, Air Force, and Army.
Though some believe that Remembrance Day holds pro-violence connotations, I believe the day is about the individual men and women who serve this country. Nationalism and militarily might is the last feeling you could feel while looking at a passing parade of veterans. I see a group of normal elderly folks who have a sense of pride that they happened to be involved in something extraordinary, and who lost some friends on the way. You may not agree with the conflicts they fought in, or conflict in general, but everyone on some level can understand the sacrifice they made in keeping someone safe.
Also check out MJ Chen’s report on Remembrance Day at MGCI.