Nov. 11th. The only mandatory public school assembly in all of Canada. A minute of silent squirming during which, no disrespect to John McCrae, some kid will haltingly recite In Flander’s Fields.
Yes, another stat holiday.
Teenagers of my generation are supposed to be the most “connected” group to date, yet we are often disconnected from the Act of Remembrance, from veterans from whom we feel distant, when in reality, people my age have a great deal in common with Canadian veterans. I learned this while in Ottawa attending Encounters with Canada, a program run by Historica Canada, geared toward showcasing the best aspects of Canadian culture and history to teenagers.
While there, I attended a candlelight ceremony honouring veterans who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and I was deeply moved. I learned that the term, “veteran” refers not only to those who served in the World Wars, but also to those who served as peacekeepers in many other global conflicts.
During the peace module of the Encounters program, I met retired Major Wayne MacCullough, national president of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping.
People my age could better connect to Remembrance Day, he said, if they remember that many of the veterans being honoured on Remembrance Day were, at the time they were involved, only a little older than the teenagers of today, and had many of the same hopes and fears – thoughts about fitting in, about being successful, about being respected.
“They had to find courage within themselves, as all teenagers today still do.”
MacCullough suggested another way for young people to honour veterans: “Find a veteran’s grave in a nearby cemetery. They stand out quite well because of the distinctive shape of the headstone. Or honour a relative who served by visiting his grave. Leave your poppy on it on Nov. 11. You may want to find out more about [the] veteran, and if a First World War veteran, all of the service records for those who went overseas are online at Library and Archives Canada.”
Above all, it’s important to note that Remembrance Day is about honouring those who put their lives on the line, those who spent months and even years away from family, and those who died– all for Canada and our values – freedoms that many young people take for granted.
Canadians have kept the peace in countries abroad for nearly 60 years.
Remember veterans as you think of yourselves and think of the uncertainty they faced, in the hopes that today would be better than their time.
And it is better, MacCullough said.
“Ponder and be thankful for their sacrifice.”
It’s true. Maybe through connecting to Remembrance Day, my generation – a generation of people who are constantly tethered to computers and wifi – can plug into something more Canadian than nearly anything else. Beyond maple syrup and bacon, there’s something much more inherently Canadian: peacekeeping.
Through the sacrifices of Canadian veterans, this is something our flag has come to symbolize worldwide. So instead of using our day off school to check insta feeds, play video games, or watch hashtags trend on Twitter, let’s take an hour to go to the cenotaph and pay our respects.
– Marlowe Evans, a senior student at Thomas Haney secondary and a member of the school’s student council.