People gather to honour the fallen during a Remembrance Day ceremony at God’s Acre Veteran’s Cemetery in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, November 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

People gather to honour the fallen during a Remembrance Day ceremony at God’s Acre Veteran’s Cemetery in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, November 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Ryan’s Regards: Will Rememberance Day become memory?

COVID changed how we memorialize our Veterans this year, but these alterations may stick around

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to say that the way we commemorate Remembrance Day is changing.

Constant is the somber feeling that weighs heavy on us at this time of year; our Veterans are arguably one of Canada’s most unifying and emotional subjects.

And 2020 has brought immediate attendance restrictions and live streams, but when I mention change, I am not talking about the tiresome effects of COVID-19.

How Nov. 11th looks and what it means to Canadians shifts with or without a pandemic.

I view Remembrance Day as an open wound that will not, and should not, heal.

But that aforementioned shift, I believe, serves as an unfortunate scab that I and many young Canadians grew up with; there’s a cover that never fully reveals the pain underneath the wound.

Like many, I did not have relatives serve in either World War; everyone was either too young or born at the “wrong” time.

In school, the pieces were present, but the emotional aspect always seemed to be missed; there was always a disconnect, which will only widen as the years go by.

We would flatly recite In Flanders Fields ad nauseam, watch a video with the same Sarah McLachlan song playing over it, and then have a band student give a squeaky rendition of Taps.

The same Veteran would come year in and year out to lay down a wreath; we were always captivated by him, but few of us personally knew him beyond than the mythic, stern figure he seemed to be.

I do remember feeling so moved by the connotations attached to the poppy, I innocently figured at seven-years-old that I would be “extra patriotic” if I wore two of them.

Having one on either side of my chest did not elicit the positive reactions I thought I would get; I recall being puzzled at why my efforts were deemed so distasteful – even becoming temporarily frightened of that time of year.

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Today, legions are emptying and poppy sales are dropping.

When tasked with tracking down someone who served in the Second World War to profile – I could count the suggested names to speak with on one hand.

Now more than ever, I hear the anger and fear from people who say kids these days will never understand the sacrifices made by our Veterans; the horrors they faced and the lives lived during such grim times.

I completely agree; they won’t.

But I can’t help but think that was what Veterans were fighting for in the first place, right? If anything, the peace of today acts as some sort of silver lining.

I know these are all difficult notions to grapple with.

It’s bittersweet and the loss of our most immediate connection, our Veterans, is an inevitable future than doesn’t make it any easier to find an answer on what to do.

We can’t blame new Canadians and younger generations for not understanding something they seem so far removed from today, but at the same time, we can never let them forget what happened.

The problem is that our history becomes the responsibility of each individual to carry forward from the classroom; everyone has the choice to remain grateful and keep the memory of the fallen soldiers alive.

Perhaps there is a silver lining there too and this is a call to younger readers.

The ones without Veteran relatives who learned their stories through text books and well meaning school assemblies, that will soon take the flaming torch that is Remembrance Day.

We know what our Veterans did overseas when they were called to fight.

What we have to figure out now is what that means to us and what we’ll do when their names and stories begin to disappear.

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Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@aldergrovestar.com

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