November 11, 2018 marked the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that officially brought an end to the First World War across the Niagara region and Canada at large, we commemorated this event with a memorial known as Remembrance or Poppy Day in honour of the approximately 100,000 soldiers who sacrificed their future to ensure the freedom of our country.
In the week leading up to Remembrance Day, people far and wide could be seen sporting poppies on the left side of their chest. The reason poppies are used to remember those who have given their lives in battle is because they are the flowers which grew on the battlefields after the First World War ended. This is described in the famous poem “In Flanders Fields,” which was written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. The Brock community took part in the tradition as hundreds of students and many members of staff could be seen throughout the week attired in the little red flower on their clothing. Poppies were also available for purchase on Brock’s main campus at a variety of locations. The funds from the purchase of poppies went to the Canadian Legion Poppy Fund, which provides financial assistance and support to Veterans, including Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP, and their families who are in need.
A number of memorial services were held across Niagara in the communities of Fort Erie, Grimsby, Niagara Falls, Lincoln, Pelham, Port Colborne, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Thorold, Welland, Wainfleet and St. Catharines. Students were encouraged by the university to attend a service in their local community to pay their respects. Gervan Fearon, President of Brock University, attended the St. Catharines Remembrance Day service on Sunday along with hundreds of other community members, students and members of staff. This service was followed by a march through the streets of downtown to the cenotaph at Memorial Park, St. Catharines by Veterans and Royal Canadian Legion members.
Similar Remembrance Day ceremonies took place all across the country from British Columbia to Quebec, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with many other world leaders attended a peace forum after a ceremony Sunday morning led by Emmanuel Macron, the president of France.
Canadian military service has not stopped even though the World Wars have ended. Approximately 26,000 Canadians were deployed to Korea for the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. Hundreds of these soldiers never returned home. Even the Canadian soldiers who were sent on peacekeeping missions faced numerous dangers and experienced casualties. Over 130 Canadians lost their lives while serving on peacekeeping missions overseas in the European Community, United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization missions in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia (formerly part of Yugoslavia), including 20-plus in the Balkans alone between 1991 and 1992. Canada’s longest combat mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2011 saw over 150 soldiers killed, with many more losing their lives to battles with serious illnesses. Today, members of the Canadian Armed Forces are serving domestically and abroad on missions such as: Operation IMPACT in Iraq, Operation REASSURANCE in Eastern Europe and Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine. Presently, Canada is home to almost 650,000 war veterans.
Shauna Bowens, a third-year Psychology student, insists that pausing to reflect on Remembrance Day is the least we can do to express gratitude for the sacrifices made by our soldiers.
“Every day we wake up and we’re at liberty to do as we please. The next 24 hours are laid out before us to manipulate it as we wish without any thought of dire circumstances that may cause restrictions to this freedom. The only reason that we can do this is because of the heroes who came before us, who fought, some losing their lives and others’ lives broken beyond repair,” said Bowens. “So, it is important that we remember them on Nov. 11 by pausing at the 11:00 a.m. to reflect and pay homage to those soldiers who sacrificed their lives so we could enjoy life as we know it.”
While Remembrance Day has passed this year, our commemoration of the Canadians who fought in the war must not end here. Many war veterans and their families struggle financially and mentally and do not often get the support that should be offered to them. Each student can play a role in helping to not only raise funds to support our veterans, but to raise awareness as a means of continuing to give thanks to those who fought for Canada.