National Remembrance Day Ceremony

News Article / November 25, 2014 / Project number: RCAF-20141125-02

By Ruthanne Urquhart

Traditionally, Remembrance Day sees Canadians gather at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario, to give thanks for the sacrifices made by Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members down through the decades. Serving sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen have always been included in the official prayers and addresses.

This year, not a month before Remembrance Day, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent died after being targeted by a hit-and-run driver in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. Two days later, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed by an attacker while he stood sentry at the National War Memorial.

Both killings resonated throughout Canada. Canadians were afforded two terrible reminders that, for Canadian Armed Forces members, “we stand on guard for thee” means “we put ourselves in harm’s way”, not just in distant lands or in distant conflicts, but here at home, where we live, where our children play.

This year, the National Remembrance Day Ceremony included the rededication of the National War Memorial to mark the addition of the dates of the South African War and the Afghanistan mission to the Memorial, and the inscription “In Service to Canada — Au service du Canada”.

“We are people of peace, of respect and tolerance, kindness and honour,” said Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada David Johnston, who carried out the rededication. “These qualities are alive in our national conscience precisely because we hold them as precious. We have the luxury to do so because those we remember today believed those qualities to be precious enough to die for.”

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal delivered a message from Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of the rededication. “Today,” Princess Anne read, “it is fitting that, with this ceremony of rededication we pay tribute to all those Canadians who in the intervening years have laid down their lives in the service of peace, justice and freedom.”

This year, in his National Remembrance Day Ceremony benediction, Rabbi Reuven Bulka, honorary chaplain to the Royal Canadian Legion’s Dominion Command, said that while the National War Memorial has always been and will always be a sacred place, “What until now has been a symbol of the precious blood spilled to preserve our freedoms is now and forever a place where real blood was spilled.”

Rabbi Bulka elicited from the crowd applause for serving Canadian Armed Forces members that equaled the applause traditionally afforded Canada’s veterans as they parade around the Square.

This year, everywhere among the estimated 50,000 people surrounding Memorial Square and standing shoulder to shoulder on the east end of Parliament Hill, crowding back along the streets running into the Square, and packing the ground-level terrace of the National Arts Centre, Canadians who had travelled six blocks or six hours to attend shook hands with people in uniform and said, “Thank you.”

Canadian remembrance around the world

For Canadian Armed Forces personnel, remembrance and commemoration are an integral part of their service. Every aspect of their service, from the names of their units to the flags they honour to the medals they earn, is imbued with the history of the Canadian Armed Forces and the history of Canada.

 On November 11, wherever they were serving, Canadian Armed Forces members paused to give thanks to and for the sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen who came before them, and to rededicate themselves in the service of Canada and Canadians.

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