For some years it has appeared that Remembrance Day would be in danger of slipping quietly into a historical category that some equate only with irrelevance.
As the passage of time has guaranteed that surviving veterans of the Second World War have dwindled, sadly, into but a handful in each community across Canada, so the lingering images of the two world wars have faded in the public mind to a handful of pages in a history text.
Some might have asked – might still ask, in fact – what the point is of marking such dates as the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, the 75th of the start of the second, and the 70th of D-Day – the launch of the invasion that marked the turning point of the latter conflict.
It is true that those Canadians (and their allies) who sacrificed their lives in service of their country, for rights and freedoms we now take for granted, are long dead.
But it has become increasingly clear to subsequent generations that the issues that led to such sacrifice are far from extinct.
To be sure, the tragic and untimely deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run down by a car in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec on Oct. 20, and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who gave his life Oct. 22 while guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa, have given a symbolic currency to this week’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, and impressed on ordinary Canadians the importance of solidarity with this country’s serving men and women, both past and present.
But everywhere we look in the world, we can see plenty of up-to-date evidence that the human race has not learned much from the past 100 years of history.
Nationalistic fervour and political extremism are as prevalent, and as dangerous in the world, as they were in 1914 and 1939 – or in 1950, when the Korean War once more sent Canadian troops back to a fighting front.
Canadian soldiers, and their allies, have faced many dangers since, whether through peace-keeping missions or the current rounds of more active deployments.
Many have given their lives, or now survive with injuries that make day-to-day living a continual struggle.
It is of all of them – as well as those who sacrificed by serving in past wars – that we should be thinking when we donate for a poppy, or stand in silence at a cenotaph on Nov. 11.