A century ago, when the red poppy was chosen as a gesture to commemorate the sacrifices of those who went to war, could the people of that era ever have imagined how enduring and endearing a symbol it would turn out to be?
Much has changed in the 100 years since the poppy became synonymous with what we now call Remembrance Day.
But the sheer simplicity and power of the little plastic flowers we wear near our hearts has carried on. Yes, they fall off, we lose them, then buy another and another, but surely that is a small sacrifice given the immensity of the sacrifice the poppy represents.
We have mused before about how every year, every community, every school in small towns and big cities across the country, stops to remember those who fought to ensure the freedoms that we take for granted today.
It is a custom we must ensure endures and that future generations embrace it.
This year, we are that much closer to saying final farewells to more veterans of the Second World War. Veterans Affairs Canada said a year ago that more than 30,000 of the estimated 1 million who went to war were still with us – and their average age was mid-90s.
But all those who survived the Great War, 1914-18, are long gone. John Babcock, the country’s last known soldier from that era, died in 2010 at age 109.
Unfortunately, new veterans, from Afghanistan and other conflicts, are taking their place. War may indeed be hell, but ours is not a world without conflict.
We owe it to all of these veterans – new, old and very old – to never forget the sacrifices made.
That is why in this edition of The Lake Report, we dedicated several pages to stories and pictures of remembrance: From the heroics of Maj. Benjamin Geary, who is buried here in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and is one of the rare recipients of the vaunted Victoria Cross, to the war tale of Gino Ascenzo, who grew up in Italy and was dragooned to fight for Mussolini against the Allies, to Ross Robinson’s forward-looking column about the need for a Canadian flag at Queen’s Royal Park.
These are ways to remember and reasons to never forget.