Often the individual act of remembrance is a personal one. For some it may simply involve wearing a poppy over the heart. For others it may mean attending a local Remembrance Day ceremony. Each year part of my Remembrance Day involves sharing a story with elementary school age children. Sometimes the story is to share a significant historical fact, while others have been designed to encourage empathy. This year the theme is simple...returning home. Attention will be paid to the now, all too familiar, Repatriation Ceremony.
Although not evident unless you look closely, the photograph above involves such a ceremony. The gravemarker is located at the Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez. This particular grave once contained the remains of a Canadian soldier killed during WWI. In 2000 the grave was exhumed and the remains entrusted to Canada in a ceremony that took place in Vimy, France. The remains were returned to Canadian soil in the most well-publicized Repatriation Ceremony ever. These are the remains that have been laid within the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in a sarcophagus placed at the foot of the National War Memorial in Ottawa. I vividly recall watching this event on television. I thought about that fact that to us, this soldier was an unknown victim of war. But at that one time he was a son and perhaps a brother, husband or father...he meant something to someone. Now he means a great deal to an entire nation.
Unlike the ceremony that surrounded the 'unknown' one, we now know the names of our fallen. We watch the grief on the faces of their loved ones, as a flag draped casket comes home. In recent years, the Repatriation Ceremony has taken on a new dimension. It simply started with everyday folks lining the overpasses of Highway 401 between Trenton and Toronto. They stood, with Canadian flags in hand, to await the motorcade of a fallen Canadian soldier on the way to the Coronor's Office in downtown Toronto. The movement grew and eventually led to this portion of the route being renamed the "Highway of Heroes". The impact of this simple gesture has been tremendous. The event even has its own song, aptly named Highway of Heroes.
Written by Newstalk 1010's Bob Reid (host of Rock Talk), the single was released on CD/itunes last week. A portion of sales will be donated to Wounded Warriors, a charity that "delivers quality of life, financial, benevolent and moral assistance" to Canadian soldiers. This is another way one can participate in an act of remembrance and support a very worthy cause.