Most of us pause to remember and give thanks on Nov. 11 for the men and women who fought and died for our freedom.
And when officers of the law die while trying to keep us safe, we rightly show them how grateful we truly are.
But aside from Remembrance Day and crises like the recent slaying of three police officers in Moncton, it’s safe to say that many us “forget to remember.”
A couple of initiatives over the past week – one along a busy stretch of Island highway and another in a bustling recreation and entertainment centre in Summerside – should make it a whole lot easier for at least some of us to remember year-round.
A 115-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway from the Confederation Bridge to Wood Islands has been renamed Highway of Heroes. It’s a highly visible salute and thank you not only to our military men and women but also to all uniformed personnel who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe. For travellers along this busy highway, it’s a daily reminder of those who selflessly put others before themselves.
Around the same time the highway was being dedicated in Borden-Carleton, a new Wall of Remembrance was opening up just down the road in Summerside. But it wasn’t at the local legion home; it was at Credit Union Place, a mecca for sports, recreation and entertainment enthusiasts in the province’s second largest city.
A bright red poppy highlights the name, photo, hometown and age of fallen soldiers from across Prince County in another visible reminder of the horrible price that was paid for us to live in a free and democratic country.
The summer of 2014 may be remembered on Prince Edward Island as the sesquicentennial of the 1864 Charlottetown conference, and rightly so. Across the province, Islanders and visitors will flock to more than 150 festivals, events and activities that celebrate the historic conference that set the wheels in motion for a new country.
But without the dedication and courage of the men and women being commemorated along the Highway of Heroes and the Wall of Remembrance, these and other celebrations we enjoy every summer might not be possible.
Remembrance celebrations don’t come with fireworks or light shows, but with a powerful reminder to never take for granted our freedom to choose, among other things, how we’ll spend our summer holiday.
It’s great to see the idea of remembrance being extended outside the traditional Nov. 11 ceremonies. And it’s encouraging to see more people interested in taking the time to say thanks. An Ipsos Reid poll taken just over a year ago found that 30 per cent of online respondents planned to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, a sharp increase from similar polls five years earlier. More than 80 per cent of respondents said they planned to wear a poppy.
My own observation is that more Islanders, especially young people, are attending Remembrance Day services, likely due in part to a younger generation of soldiers who fought in Afghanistan. Several soldiers with Island connections lost their lives in that war including Frank Mellish, Nick Bulger and Nichola Goddard, the first Canadian female soldier to die while in a combat role. Remembering them and others who sacrificed their lives shouldn’t be restricted to one autumn day.
That’s why initiatives like the Highway of Heroes and the Wall of Remembrance are welcome as daily reminders of the respect and gratitude we owe all men and women in uniform.
As we enjoy all the fireworks, festivals and frivolity of the summer of 2014, let’s take a moment to remember those who made it all possible…lest we forget.
Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.