Remembrance Day: What does it mean to you?

In my 15 years of teaching I have been moved by every school Remembrance Day ceremony that I have attended. Today at my current school, 300 to 400 teen-agers will file into an auditorium, put on poppies, turn off their phones, sit down quietly, and respectfully observe our Remembrance Day ceremony. Every year I am so impressed with all the students and teachers that take part in the ceremony, as well as all the students in the audience. For anyone who thinks that our current generation of young people are incapable of respectful behavior, I encourage you to attend a school Remembrance Day ceremony.

As time goes on and we have fewer and fewer surviving veterans from WWII, some people may wonder if Remembrance Day has the same meaning as it did 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Some may ask, does Remembrance Day have any impact on the youth of today? I believe that Remembrance Day still has meaning and it does impact the youth of today. We have a whole new generation of veterans that have participated in many conflicts and peace keeping missions since WWII, most recently the many Canadian soldiers that have been stationed in Afghanistan. We must still honor these people that have fought for our country and continue to fight. I believe that we, as a nation, must strive to solve conflict in a peaceful manner, but I have the utmost respect for those who choose to join our military and are willing to die to protect our freedoms.

In the title of this post I posed the question, what does Remembrance Day mean to you? For me, two things changed the way I view Remembrance Day. The first was seeing the movie Saving Private Ryan in 1998. The opening scene of this movie has forever changed my view of Remembrance Day. If you have never seen the movie, the opening scene takes place on D-Day in WWII as the allied forces storm the beaches of Normandy. As difficult as it is to watch this scene, I think everyone needs to see it. I often think of that scene during the 2 min of silence after The Last Post. I cannot imagine what these young men went through that day. I also highly recommend the 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers. The mini-series is based on a real company of American paratroopers and follows them from their training all the way through the end of WWII. After watching this mini-series, I once again had a new appreciation for what these soldiers went through. The most meaningful part of the mini-series is the interviews with the actual surviving members of “Easy” company. After hearing from these men, I can appreciate why they are called The Greatest Generation.

The second thing that has changed the way I view Remembrance Day was the birth of my daughter. Many things change when you become a parent. You discover that you can love someone more than you ever thought possible and you would do absolutely anything to keep them safe. I cannot imagine what it must be like for a soldier to leave their family and loved ones behind and head off into war or an area of conflict. As a father, it breaks my heart to know that so many parents have lost a son or daughter in combat. It also breaks my heart to know that so many children have lost a parent in combat as well. It brings tears to my eyes when I even try to imagine how painful this must be on everyone involved, and the birth of my daughter has amplified that feeling exponentially.

Today I will go to the auditorium of my school and observe the Remembrance Day ceremony. I will think of the brave young men and women that have given their lives for our country. I will think about the men that stormed the beaches of Normandy nearly 70 years ago. I will think about the men of “Easy” company and their amazing story. I will think about the family and loved ones of our military that have lost a friend, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, or parent. I will hope for peace. And at the end of the day I will  go home and give my daughter a big hug. This is what Remembrance Day means to me.



8 thoughts on “Remembrance Day: What does it mean to you?

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  4. Hi, Ryan. Thank you for this post. Remembrance Day is always an incredibly profound day for me as my father was a World War II veteran. He died in 2011, and I miss him so much. Before he died, my church did a wonderful video honouring my dad, and since we had encouraged my dad to record some of his experiences, we were able to piece together his story. This year, I was working with my Creative Writing class, and I asked them this question about Remembrance Day, and one student wrote about his Great Grandfather and Uncle who were at Normandy. The uncle didn’t survive and the Grandfather hauled his brother’s body back to a boat. It was a powerful moment as he shared the story that had been passed down to him. One student said it was difficult for him to relate because he hadn’t experienced war. Another girl who is from the Sudan shared some of the terrible experiences and things she had seen during the Sudanese war and broke down and sobbed. There it was. Those raw feelings over a real loss that had been seen and experienced. She told me later that she had never talked about these experiences before. Later, some of my Advisory kids were in my room and were complaining about the Remembrance Day program and that it was always the same, and I wanted to get mad at them, but I didn’t. I wanted to say to them that they could make such complaints because my father and so many others risked everything so that they didn’t have to experience oppression or war, so that they could complain. If those men hadn’t done what they did, I think they would really have something to complain about. As my tribute to my father, I wrote a poem and shared it on my teacher blog. At my father’s funeral, a Canadian flag was placed over his coffin and an honour guard of military and RCMP and paramedics stood on guard as his funeral left the church. He was my hero, and I will always be grateful for his service to this country.

    • Thank you so much for sharing about your father Gwen. We, as a country, are so indebted to men like your father who fought in WWII. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been. This is why it is still important to honor these men on Remembrance Day.

      We also have to remember that even though we are relatively secure here in Canada, and are privileged to have many freedoms, there are many people in the world, like the student in your class from the Sudan, who do not have the same security and freedoms that we have in Canada. War and conflict is a part of their daily lives. We, as Canadians, cannot take our freedoms and security for granted. This is another reason why Remembrance Day is so important. Lest we forget.

      Thanks again for this very thoughtful comment Gwen.

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