Like many other Canadians at this time of year, I make an effort to observe Remembrance Day in honour of the sacrifices of a generation gone, but not forgotten.
Nov. 11 holds special significance for me as I have several family members who served in both World War I and World War II.
My grandfather, who served as a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, flew over Europe in a Lancaster bomber to defend our nation against Adolf Hitler's regime.
Likewise, my great-grandfather fought as a foot soldier in World War I. His image is carved in Italian marble atop the cenotaph in Taber, Alta., which was recently restored and rededicated in 2014.
I can’t imagine the fear the men who fought in these battles felt not knowing if they would return home to their sweethearts or their distraught mothers. They performed their duty to their country regardless of the reluctance they felt in their gut or the horrors they faced along the way.
While my relatives returned home from war, there are many who did not, and this fact rings true in my mind every year as I don my symbolic red poppy pin.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the poppy, which has been a symbol of remembrance since 1921. The tradition of wearing a red poppy was started by a French woman, Anna Guérin, who was inspired by Canadian John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields. The flower serves as a symbol that was used to raise money for veterans and to memorialize those who sacrificed life and limb during the First World War.
Shortly thereafter, the Great War Veterans Association unified with other groups to form the Royal Canadian Legion in 1925, choosing the red poppy as a symbol of fallen servicemen and women.
Today, the red poppy continues to serve as a symbol of the sacrifices of fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.
Whether or not you come from a long line of service members as I do, you most certainly still reap the benefits of their bravery and sacrifice. As such, I believe it is every Canadian citizen’s duty to pay respect to veterans – both past and present – on Remembrance Day.
I encourage everyone to participate in the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy campaign and show your support to our past and present service members. You can do so by visiting a participating retail outlet and picking up a red poppy in exchange for a small donation. Funds raised from the campaign are used locally to support veterans.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly.
Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy