Remembrance Day reaches milestone year for honouring fallen soldiers

Remembrance Day on November 11 will celebrate a milestone year across the world, in Canada and in Calgary.

It’s the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War and also the 10th anniversary of the Field of Crosses project along Memorial Drive, across the Bow River from Calgary’s downtown core.

Since 1919, Canadians have taken the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to remember those who have served their country both in times of conflict and in peace.

The Field of Crosses Memorial Project is an annual display of more than 3,400 crosses which is a tribute to those who served and died for our freedom. Each cross memorializes an individual soldier from southern Alberta who made the ultimate sacrifice during active duty to protect our country.

Each year from November 1 to November 11 the memorial park has the Field of Crosses display and once again a Remembrance Day ceremony will be held there beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The inspiration for the stunning display came from Calgary businessman Murray McCann, who years ago was touched by how the small community of Menlo, Georgia was commemorating those of their community who had been killed in foreign wars.

“It was an experience I had driving in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” said McCann. “I was by myself on a beautiful day in May, driving up a hill and there were three crosses at the top that I could see. My first feeling was that there had been an accident there like you see today with crosses on the road.”

But as McCann got to the site he noticed a row of crosses. He slowed down to take a look and found that each of the crosses had the name, rank, age and date of death of all these soldiers.

“I realized these crosses, maybe 35-40, along 50 feet were of soldiers that had sacrificed their lives in wars that the U.S. had been in,” he said.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks. I pulled over and I started to cry. Those crosses impacted me so much – every one of them. It had such an impact that when I got back to Calgary the following week that’s all I could think of.”

He connected with George Bittman who headed up the Calgary Poppy Fund and from there the Field of Crosses project was born.

“We are a diverse group of volunteers connected by an abiding respect for our military. We recognize the bravery of our soldiers who fill peacekeeping roles around the world as well as being prepared to go to war should our country put out the call. We are particularly appreciative and mourn those who gave up their lives so that we could live with the freedom we so enjoy,” say the organizers of the Field of Crosses on their website.

Here is a complete list of ceremonies, events and activities taking place in and around Calgary to remember and honour our veterans and those who continue to defend our nation and the world:

“Just as important as honouring the past, remembrance is a time to acknowledge and recognize those who serve today, living among us and doing a job unlike any other. It is also an opportunity to recognize those who stand behind the uniform – who willingly support and encourage their service member or Veteran. We must not forget the wider service family, loved ones and caregivers whose heroism is no less valorous for being unsung,” said Louise Bradley, President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada.

“Veterans’ week, which culminates on Remembrance Day, can be a difficult time of the year. Some service members and veterans continue to live with the psychological impact of their service and strive to overcome mental health challenges . . . Take the time this Veterans’ week to participate in an act of remembrance and to honour the sacrifices of those who have served and continue to serve their country. Don’t forget to acknowledge those who stand proudly behind them. If you know a service member, Veteran or caregiver who may need a helping hand encourage them to step forward to get the supports they deserve.”

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