The first time you read this might be on Remembrance Day, November 11, a day which has a lot more significance now than it did before our troops began operations in Afghanistan in late 2001.
The day is a little confusing in its national application because, while it is a holiday here in the Yukon and in the several other provinces, that isn’t the case across the nation.
Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Saskatch
ewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon celebrate it as such. The rest don’t.
According to an online CBC poll 89% of Canadians (out of 1300 that voted) think that it ought to be a national holiday. It seems odd that we would have a major war museum in the nation’s capital, a magnificent memorial sculpture just down the street from the Parliament Buildings, a national Department of Veterans’ Affairs promoting a Remembrance Week with poppies, gatherings and agendas all planned out, and a major ceremony in the nation’s capital, and not have a national day set for the celebration.
But the fact is that we don’t.
Lots of towns across the country have monuments that honour the war dead. Like Dawson’s Victory Gardens (immortalized in Pierre Berton’s history book, Marching as to War), many have memorial statues with the names of the war dead listed on them. Most have the names from World War I on the front of the monument, with World War II and the Korean War wrapping around the other sides.
Some memorials, like that in Dawson, have captured field artillery pieces as part of the display. In our case, one of the guns has been shifted slightly on its concrete base and really ought to be rebalanced.
As well, there are usually flagpoles. We have one for Canada, one for the Yukon and one for the Legion. Sadly, our flags are looking somewhat the worse for wear these days and I keep hoping that whoever looks after such things will take notice and replace them.
On the school day closest to the actual holiday, which will be the 10th this year, schools throughout the Yukon will have their own internal ceremonies to mark the event. Teachers try to work related activities – artwork, stories, music – into their class work during the week or so before that day, in order to give it meaning and substance.
At Robert Service School part of the event is a Powerpoint slide show featuring the names and photos of any relatives of staff or students who have served in the military in any way. If the weather on that day cooperates, the entire school may march the three blocks to Victory Gardens for a solemn ceremony. If it doesn’t, they lay wreaths in the school gymnasium.
That is also the scene of the town’s annual service of Remembrance, held on the actual day. This is a standing room only event involving the Rangers and Junior Rangers, the RCMP, the Legion and just about every organization in town.
We gather to remember our dead, to recall the loss felt by those who waited for them to come home, to bring to mind those who are currently caught up in military actions around the world, and to pray that wars everywhere might cease.