In hopes of insisting this day exists as much more than just a day off work, I took myself out to one of Calgary's many Remembrance Day observances. In the time leading up, I found myself thinking that this day must be looked upon with more intention than back home, even just if for the higher quota of poppies-to-people I have seen in my own country.
Needless the say, my assumptions were proven correct - at just one of the celebrations in the city, the one I attended in Memorial Park at the intersection of 4th St SW and 12th Ave SW, there were about 2,000 people in attendance. I overheard a conversation surrounding the fact that the observation at the Military Museum on Crowchild was expecting to draw 60,000. I couldn't help but feel awash with pride; that is, until I remembered that I come from a country where this day, our Veteran's Day, often IS looked upon as another day off.
Listening to the bagpipes bring in group after group of different service-men (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, EMS Honor Guard, Korean War Vets, etc.), I could feel the importance of this day surging through me. Despite the large amount of time and brain power I have spent trying to understand the idea of trading in human lives to solve conflict, I do not know if it is a concept I will ever be able to comprehend. However, regardless of your outlook on our current situations and the theoretics of war, these people need to be looked upon with respect, and remembered and honored for what they have been willing to sacrifice as people.
In reading the Globe and Mail today, I noticed a comment on a story regarding the holiday (nonetheless, the front page story) that noted the poppie as 'an outdated icon that stands for wars past, which should be abandoned in favor of focusing on the ones happening now.' I was appalled a such a suggestion. While I consider myself a relatively progressive person with some opinions and ideas that one might even called radical from time to time, I have an important place in my heart for the observance of tradition (which was probably bred by heavy involvement in marching band, years of 4H, and a family that is absolutely Christmas crazy.) That is not to say that I am in favor of blind observance of tradition, but rather, the kind of purposeful and thought-through observance that serves to pass along histories and ideas that are important to a culture and to the cultivation of people to lead it. Today's observance fit this description, and the amount of people there to be a part of this exchange was truly inspiring.
This sense of inspiration carried me to further thought regarding the condition of the United States' armed service celebrations. In witnessing such an ourpouring of attention, observance and thought here in Calgary, Canada on Remembrance Day, I was at first ashamed by how Veteran's Day seems to go unnoticed by so many. This train of thought did bring me to the realization that the United States has both Veteran's Day (November 11th at 11:11am, a celebration of what it recognized around the world as Armistice) and Memorial Day - one day to celebrate those who are still with us, and another to remember those who have passed on. While this realization DID make me feel a bit better about the seemingly smaller amount of attention given to Veteran's Day, it also spurred me on to the thought that there would be no harm done in celebrating BOTH of our days with the passion and dedication akin to what I witnessed within our Northern Neighbors today.
So take these days as opportunities to say a prayer to those who have served, and while you are at it, lace up your shoes and hike on out (or drive if you must :) ) to an observance event. Though 'another day off work' is always nice, it is because of these people that you are free to try and work whatever job you fancy. You will end up being really glad you took the time; I know am.