Of all the days in history the one that resonates with me is Armistice Day, now known as Veteran's Day, and when I saw Canadian politicians last week celebrating the elections I noticed the poppies on their lapels...
Armistice Day was created to mark the millions who died in World War One in the poppy fields of Flanders in Belgium. They said the earth was as red as poppies with all the blood spilled on it. So through the English speaking Commonwealth people wear little paper poppies to remind themselves of all who died.
I grew up in the shadow of World War Two, food rationing was only just ending after years of suffering to pay off the endless debts of war. And now we live wars by proxy, people who died in Iraq weren't even allowed to be shown on television lest the national drama have its political story line disturbed. Veterans who deserve medical care, who were promised medical care, don't get it and no one these days promises "never again." Pearl Harbor, D Day, Bataan, and even one dare say Korea and Vietnam are becoming historical footnotes in scholarly texts in a country with the attention span, collectively, of a gold fish. If it didn't happen on Twitter and doesn't expose breasts who can remember it?
For me Armistice Day celebrating the peace treaty that took effect at 11:00 am on November the 11th 1918 remains the day that makes all the forgotten dead and wounded and lost and missing and sacrificed for political reasons that no longer make sense. Think of all those millions who died to avenge the murder of the Serbian Archduke in Sarajevo...
And to take us back to the new bright hopes of Canada's government pictured above, it turns out the last soldier recorded to have died in the war that ended at 11:00 am that November day in 1918...was from Nova Scotia.
On November 11, Pte George Price, Canadian Expeditionary Force, was part of an advance to take the small village of Havré. After a crossing of the Canal du Centre into the town of Ville-sur-Haine under German machine gun fire, Price and his patrol moved toward a row of houses intent on pursuing the machine gunner who had harassed their crossing of the canal. The patrol had entered the house from which they had thought the shooting had come, but found the Germans had exited through the back door as they entered the front. They then pursued into the house next door and again found it empty. George Price was fatally shot in the chest by a German sniper as he stepped out of the house into the street, against contrary advice from a house occupant, at 10:58 a.m., November 11, 1918. He died just 2 minutes before the armistice ceasefire, that ended the war, came into effect at 11 a.m.
That's some serious dedication to duty. That's why Armistice Day is still worth remembering. No poppies around here but that doesn't mean one has to forget.