Monday, November 10, 2008

Of Vimy Ridge and Remembrance Day

I saw the informative and affecting Vimy Ridge: Heaven to Hell on Global Sunday night. What struck me was how peaceful the archeological site looked, yet the neon vests, hard hats, and bomb disposal experts attested to the killing fields they once were. It was hard to imagine that people parts littered the ground underneath the grass, until they dug up bones, Canada flashes (they were made of metal back then), and the detritus of war life. It was well worth watching, and this is what it brought up in me:

The verdant field in France, lush with summer-rain grass, rolls softly over the ninety-year-old craters and trenches of the Great War, a time when mud and artillery smoke, sweat and fear, explosions and tunnels ruled, a time when Canadian Divisions came together to accomplish a feat no great nation had: to defeat swiftly the Germans encamped on the impenetrable Vimy Ridge.

In the white chalk tunnels, as they waited for the signal to storm the German lines, Canadian soldiers carved their names, their ranks, their birth dates. And they carved the maple leaf. Crude carvings, realistic carvings, ornate carvings, these white stone maple leaves tell all whose eyes fall on them that Canada was there. These young men, these boys, homesick for the peace of Canada, forged the identity of our nation in their battles above ground and in these early adoptions under ground of what would become -- but was not yet -- our national symbol, the symbol we look upon today with pride and bursting hearts, the symbol that adorns our flag.

The Great War was a stupid war, but it showed the world and ourselves that we are one nation, courageous, innovative, and free. That was their gift to us, and we must never forget that. Nor must we allow our leaders to ever forget. May we remember them.

No comments: