We pause once again on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month for a solemn act of remembrance. We remember the fallen soldiers and the serving; for those who deployed never to return home and those who returned home but would never be the same. This year we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War 2; a conflict that claimed the lives of 45,000 Canadian soldiers and left 55,000 wounded. We pray they continue in eternal rest.
Thank you for coming together in community at this hour. For those gathered at the cenotaph and for those who are watching by video feed at home. I invite you to fall silent once more and reflect on the sacrifice of so many which has purchased the peace and freedom we enjoy.
That legacy of peace and freedom stands in sharp contrast to a sense of foreboding which has accompanied Covid 19. That legacy stands in even sharper contrast to the deep divisions, obscene violence, and the inflammatory rhetoric of our time which has captured media attention for the better part of this year. Some of us are learning, perhaps for the first time that peace and freedom are not enduring gifts. They need to be nourished. Nourished by virtuous standards of behaviour and a resolve to challenge its aberrations. We may be tempted to turn off or turn away from all the noise in a larger effort to recover the sacred silence which is the home of reflection and remembrance. There’s merit to that viewpoint. The reality is that Canadian soldiers went to war as a result of political upheaval and growing tyranny. How we reconcile all those aberrations of human behaviour with the timeless sacrifice of Canadian soldiers will remain a very difficult question for our time.
We are fortunate as Canadians to have a predisposition for peace. Its terms are simple. It is a peace where we are in accord with family, friends, neighbours, and our communities. It is a peace that allows us to truly live and to truly love. That is precisely why war is always a failure of our humanity. We know there are times we are called upon to defend the beliefs by which we live. We have done so at a great cost. The sacrifices demand that we question, debate, and learn from conflict because that is what free societies like Canada do. And Canadians do it very well.
Within sight of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa where issues are discussed, debated, and translated into law, stands our National War Memorial. It is a magnificent monument. To stand at its base is a humbling experience. Looking upwards you see two bronze figures. Their arms are linked. They cannot be separated. They are named peace and freedom. Looking back down to the ground you find the resting place of a Canadian boy who died at Vimy Ridge. We do not know his name. It is the tomb of the unknown soldier. In anonymity he honours all Canadians who have made the supreme sacrifice.
We are truly a people of peace, of respect, tolerance, kindness, and honour. They are all framed in our national conscience. They are the torch which has been passed to us all. “Be yours to hold it high.”
Capt. (ret’d) The Rev’d. C. Douglas Campbell, Padre,Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 63