Nov

12

T o t U SThe Tomb of the Unknown Soldier covered in red was quite a site to see, almost completely buried in the little red poppy pins that everyone wears leading up to Remembrance Day in Canada every year. Legionnaires and veterans organizations distribute them to fundraise for Veterans. In the bright sunshine of a crisp and beautiful November 11th morning, they truly looked like the real thing. Why November 11th? Armistice Day in 1918, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when World War I finally ended. It is at this moment every year that we all stand for one minute of silence to remember those that gave their lives. And the poppy is now the powerful and widely recognized symbol of Remembrance immortalized by John McCrea’s beautiful poem “In Flanders Fields”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Our poppies were on that tomb. Shortly after the final wreath was laid, and before the general public was allowed back onto Confederation Square, each of us of the 63rd Ottawa Scout Troop stepped up, one at a time, laid our poppy on the tomb and saluted, as had the military personnel before us. The kids looked great doing it too, each having their own special moment at ground zero of the Remembrance Day ceremony. When we laid down our poppies, there was just a smattering of them, like the first fall leaves. After the public was done, the Unknown Soldier was warmly shrouded in both poppies and love.

Before that we started the morning by meeting at our agreed staging point, where, in short order, we invested 3 Scouts, Nicholas M, Dylan, and William, who had missed investiture night the week before. (H1N1 is going around the city and many were off sick.) I told them it was a “field promotion”, and had them recite the law, promise, and motto directly under the statue of a large bear on the Sparks Street mall. As official Scouts, they then eagerly jumped in with the others to distribute programs to the crowd. This is part of our role in the ceremonies every year.

After exhausting our supply of programs, we crossed the security cordon for the last time and took our place on Confederation Square, about 30 feet from where the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, and Prince Charles, currently visiting Ottawa, would take their place before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the formal part of the ceremony. After the minute of silence, the 21-gun salute, anthems, a couple of commemoration speeches including a beautiful one by a local rabbi, came the laying of the wreaths.

When I had arrived at 9:30 AM two of my more enterprising Scouts, Alexander and James, were already across the street in the square, and had somehow arranged themselves to be involved in the wreath-laying, despite not actually being in the plan. So throughout the ceremonies they stayed in a separate area from the rest of us amongst all sorts of dignitaries, with the officially-selected Scouts. As it turns out, it worked out. Although two other Scouts laid the wreath for Scouts Canada, Alexander somehow ended up laying the wreath for the Jewish National Congress, and James a left-over wreath from an organization whose representative failed to show. Now these two are always scheming something, and to their credit, I don’t know how they did it, but they ended up hob-nobbing with the Mayor of Ottawa Larry O’Brian, the leader of the New Democratic Party Jack Layton, and a number of foreign ambassadors. Alexander even got a wink from the Prince of Wales. It so reminded me of the Woody Allen movie Zelig, where the main character keeps turning up fortuitously in the middle of major historic events. (This device was also later used in Forrest Gump.) At our luncheon afterwards at Eggspectations (all eggs, all the time) I turned to Alexander and James and dubbed them Zelig 1 and Zelig 2.

Others in our party who attended were Scouter Steve, his friend Brian, his ex-boss Scouter Cal with daughter Erin, Scouts Tyler, Brandon, and Nicholas P (my son) and Venturer Thomas P (also my son). It was a very memorable Remembrance Day on many levels.

John de Regt comments:

I was in Montreal today. There were very many poppies in lapels, and this in a country not at war for its existence for more than 200 years. We all need to wake up and recognize the good fight and the very real enemies around us.


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