As we mark another Remembrance Day, commemorative events will be taking place or will have taken place throughout the country to once again think of those who fought for the country, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Special days like Nov. 11 and events that surround anniversaries of such milestones are important elements in keeping a nation’s ties to its history alive, and in so doing, maintaining and strengthening the national identity of a country.
And an overwhelming majority of the nations celebrate such important milestones like independence days or major military victories with shows of lots of military pride, display of military hardware parading alongside rows and rows of soldiers on major squares or wide avenues.
Thankfully in Canada, we mark the Remembrance Day without any such military fanfare. Yes, we do have parades, mostly organized and led by members of Royal Canadian Legion, but they are solemn, peaceful and silent parades mostly to our cenotaphs at the town centres without the arrogant show of military might.
In taking note of our congenial differences from other nations in marking one of Canada’s most important historical anniversaries, we should also pay tribute to Royal Canadian Legion for not only keeping alive the memory of those who have made great sacrifices for their country, but also for doing what they are doing in such a way that they can remain a beating heart in communities throughout the country rather than being called on to get activated only for a few days every year.
From small towns to big cities, but particularly in small towns, Legion branches are generally active throughout the year, helping raise funds for community causes, sponsoring successful students or young athletes, hosting social and community events, engaging youth through artistic competitions and most importantly, helping keep the community spirit alive.
The recent hoisting of 128 Canadian flags along Highway 2, making Ponoka proud for being one of only five communities throughout the nation remembering the befallen, is only one example of how Legion can and does make an impact in our lives and on how we feel.
But the Legion’s mandate goes far beyond pumping our feelings of pride.
With the work it undertakes in promoting the rights of the veterans who have fought in the recent conflicts and campaigning on behalf of them for improved social and economic conditions, the Legion is also trying to ensure that serving in the Canadian armed forces is not to be shunned by the younger generation.
Albert Einstein was quoted as saying “We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war. There is no task that is more important or closer to my heart.”
Making such sacrifices in peace time means relentless efforts on several fronts: Reminding the younger generations of what happened in the history and how; trying to make sure that history is not repeated but learnt from; and at the same time maintaining a peaceful approach to global affairs without totally dropping one’s guard against potential risks.
Of those tasks, it is fair to say that Royal Canadian Legion is doing a great job achieving the first two, by keeping themselves vibrant in the communities and engaging the youth on a number of platforms.
The only problem is that even the successful Legion has been finding it more and more difficult to attract new blood to its ranks. This is probably because of changing times with more and more young people taking on more responsibilities at younger ages as compared to only a decade ago.
But having survived through many other difficulties, the Legion is certain to adjust to challenges of the day and keep serving the communities and the cause of peace.