Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Acts Of Remembrance

Remembrance Day in Ottawa is marked in many locations, but the heart of it is at the War Memorial, where the national service takes place.


It was a snowy, damp November 11th, but the crowds came out, thousands crowding the area around the Memorial. The traditions are observed as they have since the First World War: the silence at the eleventh hour, the twenty one gun salute, the prayers by various clergy, the Last Post, the fly-by, and the placing of wreaths at the Memorial. It is followed by the march of the veterans and the service branches past the Governor General, representing the Queen.


Veterans march together, decades after the Second World War and Korea. Some are in wheelchairs, some are accompanied by service dogs. Many of them walk on their own, all of them still holding onto that military discipline that never goes away. These are the survivors.


Each year there are fewer vets of those wars of the past, but their presence draws out the applause of the onlookers.


Others follow in their wake, retired military officers and enlisted men, and active duty troops serving today. And even the Mounties.


When I see units from Highlander regiments on a day like this, I find myself wondering how they bear the cold in those kilts.



28 comments:

  1. I find it so emotional to see so many people gathered together to remember. In the city a lone piper stood in the middle of the road and played the lament at the 11th hour and the traffic and everyone just all stopped still for that moment, amazing!

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    1. The Lament is played here as well by a piper. That always gets to me.

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  2. We no longer have any WWI vets here, the last one died a couple of years ago...

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    1. Our last one died two or three years ago. I think at the time there were three or four left. They're all gone now.

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  3. Great pictures. My neighbor is a World War II veteran (he's 92 years old!), and I did some portraits of him on Veterans Day. I thought it was a good day to do that. I'm glad you braved the elements to get these shots. The uniforms look so striking in the soft light.

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    1. I quite literally owe my life to men like this. My grandparents were living in the Netherlands during the war under occupation, and my parents were children. Had the war gone on a few more months, one or both might have starved to death, and I wouldn't be here. I owe it to them to be there each year.

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  4. sad to think that each year there are more missing from the parade...what a great turnout to see these brave and honorable men/women..

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    1. They are extraordinary, and you can see it in their eyes when chatting with them all these decades later.

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  5. Seeing this, it is a stark reminder to this American that so many countries participated in WW I (and WW II) and that so many died or were wounded in it. Your photos tell a nice story of your commemoration.

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    1. They were both terrible wars. At least the second one really resolved quite a lot, in ways that the first never did.

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  6. Great post. I have never been in Ottawa on Remembrance Day.

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  7. Wonderful post again, William!

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  8. These remind me so much of Remembrance Day when I was a young GIrl Guide. It was quite an honor to be chosen to help lay the wreathe. It was quite often very cold and sometimes the first flakes of the season would be falling. We would have to wear our uniforms with layers and layers of sweaters underneath. As odd as it seems, these are very warm memories as so many of the men in our very small town marched as well. Most are long gone.The cenotaph was at the center of our town and therefore always a constant reminder of those who made such honorable sacrifices.

    We were in L.A. on the 11th and not a poppy was in sight. However, here in Massachusetts, it is becoming more popular.

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    1. Poppies are definitely a presence here each year. As I write this, I'm still wearing mine.

      There were guides and scouts among the crowds the other day, handing out programs and carrying boxes of poppies for those who still needed one.

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  9. There were several vets in my family. Only those from Vietnam are still living.

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    1. And even those are getting older. We're forty years past Vietnam....

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  10. It's always a wonderful sight when the veterans are honored.

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  11. Great pictures. It's amazing how strong some of the older vets are.

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  12. While it is wonderful that there was a turnout for this Remembrance Day, sadly these are becoming far and few between in many places, including this small town we now live in. I too was curious about how they keep warm wearing kilts, but it is similar to a woman wearing a skirt in colder temps as well.

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    1. It seems perhaps more pressing on our side of the border. I've heard from people who are in small towns, who still come out in force to observe the day.

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  13. Your parade has a more participatory look than the ones I see in Connecticut. In yours, it is a fairly continuous flow of marchers. Ours usually have some separation of the groups, so that each can get the attention of the onlookers.

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    1. Where I was standing, there's a bit of a bottleneck as the marchers pass the Governor General, but each group in turn moves at enough of a pace for the onlookers to call out to them and applaud them.

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  14. I think that I should probably become more participatory during these special memorial days.

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    1. For me, it feels like something I'm obliged and honoured to do.

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