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
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Outside our national anthem, there are perhaps no more famous Canadian words. John McCrae’s 1915 poem of remembrance is a favourite, not just of school children at their November 11th assemblies, but by anyone who can allow themselves to be moved by its simple, emotional appeal.
Let me make a short case for helping instead of remembering
Hockey and our veterans have been bound together from almost the start. From the inception of James Thomas Sutherland’s Memorial Cup in 1919, hockey was there to honour its fallen sons.
And many more sons, and daughters have paid the ultimate price for our country since. Be it the Second World War, Korea, Afghanistan, or peace keeping around the world – Canadians have been there; not as aggressors but as defenders. I would like to think that in some small way, the integrity that our particular sport instills in our children has played a part in building the character of the men and women who have represented the best of us to the rest of the world. Represented us while risking their own lives.
But here’s what I want to get at today. It’s a good thing to eulogize the dead; It helps us remember what we did right so we can do it again and it helps us cringe from the bad, so we try not to repeat it. But, there are many thousands of veterans still living among us, who have also paid a terrible price for us, and who now need our help.
It’s OK to drop a loonie in the box and buy a poppy, but better yet, become a member and donate your time to your local Royal Canadian Legion. Thousands of veterans of Canada’s recent military involvements have come home only to struggle with PTSD, finding employment, depression, homelessness, and an alarmingly high rate of suicide.
Gathering by a cenotaph in late fall and hoisting a hockey trophy in May might be enough of a monument for our fallen, but not at all enough for our living.
Everyone knows the first lines of in Flanders Fields, but the important ones are these: