Thousands packed Victory Square in downtown Vancouver Wednesday morning to commemorate Remembrance Day.
It was a tribute to Canada’s distinctive role it has played in conflicts around the world since 1914.
The solemn event – marked by the ceremonial laying of wreaths, a formal military parade, speeches, and aircraft flybys.
Honouring the fallen
It wasn’t just the young soldiers who lost their lives or the veterans who survived — some at Victory Square.
But it was also about caring for the soldiers who didn’t survive after they came home — the ones who took their own lives, years after the war ended.
In a sign of changing times, today’s speakers made direct reference to the soldiers who fell after their tour of service had finished.
That message, more important than ever, as Canadian Forces statistics show 160 veterans had taken their own lives between 2004 and 2014. The number now eclipses the 158 who fell in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
Sights and Sounds of Remembrance Day at Victory Square
Maj. Pavel Dudek served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and was at the ceremony to lay a poppy with his young daughter. He says it means a lot for him to see kids see the face to today’s veterans.
“It’s important for her to recognize the sacrifices that the generation prior to hers made. I find myself being a veteran reluctantly, and I’d like her to know what I did actually mattered and I hope that she’s going to appreciate it one day too.”
With more than 40,000 Afghan vets, and untold more from Canada’s peacekeeping campaigns, faces like Dudek’s are becoming increasingly common in the Remembrance day crowd.
Other veterans say they fear the creeping commercialization of Christmas eclipsing the meaning of the day. Davis says he was appalled to see such an outcry over Starbuck’s Christmas cups, when Remembrance day hadn’t even happened.
“Really? You know what? Why don’t you put a poppy on the side of that Christmas cup.”
He says Remembrance Day doesn’t get enough respect by some business owners, who are keen to sell their wares ahead of Christmas.
“It’s the people that really have lost priority and they’re more into profit than they are in regards to respect and honouring those that have given them the ability to have their businesses and to earn the profit and to lead a good life.”
He says let the Christmas sales start Nov. 12
With files from Jeremy Lye and Simon Little