The President's Blog

Lest We Forget

November 10th, 2015

As we near Remembrance Day, many of us will reflect on the meaning of this important day. For some, there will be a strong personal connection as they remember and honour family members who served to protect our freedoms.  Many will not be personally connected to the day but will still take the time to pay tribute to those who served.

I have always viewed Remembrance Day with the highest degree of reverence. As a former high school History teacher, I taught many lessons about the events of the World Wars and Canada’s many contributions to the war effort both at home and overseas. I was always impressed by the desire of our young people to learn about the events and understand the true sacrifices that were made by so many. I thought I understood and was pleased that I could help pass on the knowledge and understanding to others.

In reality, I didn’t understand.

I had an experience last year that allowed me to put Remembrance Day into perspective and brought deeper meaning to my understanding of Canada’s history. On June 5 and 6, 2014, I was part of a contingent of approximately 1,000 Canadian educators and students who got to experience the ceremonies and events honouring the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. Upon arriving in Normandy and the communities surrounding Juno Beach, I was first of all struck by the number of Canadian flags that were adorning the residences, businesses, and public spaces. Everywhere you looked, the Maple Leaf was visible.

On the afternoon of June 6, 2014, I had the memorable experience of joining fellow Canadians as we marched through the streets of Courseulles-sur-Mer in northwestern France, on our way to the formal celebrations being held at Juno Beach. As we walked, people got up off their blankets on the beach, came out of their houses, apartments, businesses, and applauded us while showing their appreciation for Canada and our soldiers. As people of all ages stopped to shake our hands and offer thanks, I began to understand. It was an experience I will never forget and will always cherish.

Lest we forget.

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