BY HARNOOR GILL
Grade 11 student
Christ The King Catholic Secondary
REMEMBRANCE Day is an important part of Canadian history and heritage. Ever since the first official Armistice Day was held on the morning of November 11, 1919 on the grounds of Buckingham Palace following the end of World War I, our great nation of Canada has made it an integral part of honouring our veterans. Remembering those brave souls that went out of their way to keep Canada’s freedom intact is the central theme of this day of remembrance. Although many of us know that wearing a poppy is a sign of respect for the day of November 11, I would bet that at least 50% of us do not know what the significance of the poppy is for this day, and why it was chosen. Not to worry though; through my experience as an air cadet, I will venture to explain the significance of the poppy, and describe how you can participate in Remembrance Day this year.
During the spring of 1915, many soldiers noted that poppies grew on the treacherous battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, which gave hope for the future that not all effort was lost. Before then the red poppy had long been associated with the battlefields of Europe, but it was Canadian physician, poet, and medical officer Lieutenant Colonel John McRae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” that inspired American professor Moina Michael – after World War I ended in 1918 – to promote wearing a silk poppy year-round by the American Legion as a sign of remembrance.
Wearing the poppy then spread to France and from there to England and the rest of the British Commonwealth, including Canada. This is the story behind the poppy and now nations such as United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have continued this tradition of wearing a poppy for remembrance. Generally, a poppy today is mainly an artificial plastic flower worn on the left lapel to commemorate those fallen soldiers that have fought for our country’s freedom.
On the day I turned 12, I joined Milton’s 820 Chris Hadfield Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. My parents hoped that as a tween, I would go out and do other things instead of just sitting at home all day. I cannot thank my parents enough for pushing me to join cadets, because the Canadian Cadet Movement has been the best youth program that I have ever been a part of. It has taught me a lot about the history of Canada’s important role in various battles throughout the First and Second World Wars. As an Air Cadet with the rank of Flight Sergeant, it is important for me to participate in activities outside of cadets as well. It is also customary for cadets to participate in local Remembrance Day parades. At our squadron, there are three different parades that cadets are invited to participate in and perform ceremonial duties for. I try to attend at least two of these parades, particularly the one held in Haltonville, and the other in Milton’s Victoria Park. Holding a senior rank, I have been responsible for leading a small group of cadets on a march to Milton’s cenotaph. It was a great experience because I saw the ceremony firsthand and heard the booming voice of the Parade Marshal – how incredible for a person of a senior age like that!
All in all, I had a great time representing my squadron in the community along with my fellow cadets. In order to gain both a sense of respect for the fallen soldiers that help to keep this country free, as well as to witness some of the most amazing ceremonial routines you may ever see, this year I challenge the readers of this article and the people that have “liked” my Facebook page to go out of their way just a bit to attend their local Remembrance Day ceremony. Thank you for reading, and I hope you gained some insight about why it is important for us to remember by wearing a red poppy on November 11. Lest We Forget!