On This Day, Remember

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month has held a special significance since 1918 and the end of the First World War. Each year since then, we have taken a moment of silence in respect and to remember the members of our armed forces who served and fell in the line of duty.

Inspired by the WWI poem In Flanders’ Fields, the poppy has been the official symbol of this day since 1920. As a symbol, it is used to commemorate the servicemen and women who have laid down their lives in service of their country.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t really know who it is we’re remembering on this most solemn day. Sure, we’ve been taught the history of the conflicts and we’ve watched the war documentaries on CBC, BBC, PBS or the History channel but, unless we’ve been directly affected through our friends, family or service, it can seem like only ‘so much history’. Personally, I’ve had many family members who have served in the armed forces and I’ve heard some of the stories that really brought home exactly what, and who, we are paying our respects to.

Then, I came across a small card from the Legion promoting remembrance. On the back of it is listed how many served and died in major conflicts over the past 100 years or so. Seeing the numbers, the sheer scope of human life lost, stuck with me. They are:

World War I
628 736 Canadians served.
66 573 died and 138 166 were wounded.
2 818 were taken prisoner of war.
175 merchant seamen died by enemy action.

World War II
1 081 865 Canadians served.
44 927 died and 53 145 were wounded.
8271 were taken prisoner of war.
1 146 merchant seamen died by enemy action.

Korea
26 791 Canadians served.
516 died and 1 558 were wounded.
33 were taken prisoner of war.

The Gulf War
4074 Canadians served.
There were no Canadian casualties.
There were no Canadians taken prisoner.

Afghanistan
39 625 Canadians served.
154 died and 615 were wounded.
There were no Canadians taken prisoner.

Even if you didn’t know these servicemen and women personally, although I’m willing to bet some of them were members of your family, they served and died for you and yours. These, then, are who we remember and paying our respects to.

Not just on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, but every day.

 

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