Every year we gather as a nation to commemorate Remembrance Day, a national observance where we stop and honour the lives of the soldiers who have bravely fought and died to protect the freedoms we all enjoy. It requires introspection and self-reflection to truly understand what the word ‘sacrifice’ meant to those brave men and women who fought in overseas conflicts and who gave their lives to protect our freedoms.
For many of us, we will never have to contemplate what it means to travel overseas and fight on foreign soil. We will never know the impacts of trench warfare on our psychological state. We will never see our friends fall in the midst of battle. We have numerous freedoms because the sacrifices of so few benefitted so many. Our nation owes an eternal debt to all the soldiers who have fought in conflicts to protect our country, and our ideals around the world. During the month of November, I encourage you to take the time to learn about the stories of those who participated in these conflicts. By accessing your local library, you can read tales from those who saw conflict with their own eyes. The City of Barrie website also has a list of the ways the city honours its fallen. This includes a list of every soldier who fought and died in a conflict from the South African war to present day.
In Springwater Park, you can visit the peaceful and beautiful cenotaph that commemorates the lives of
the Vespra Boys, a group of young men who fought and died in the World Wars. This cenotaph was hand-built in 1929 to honour the sacrifice of the soldiers in World War I. After the Second World War, a ‘V’ for Victory was created across the bank of a small stream behind the memorial, originally crafted from Yew trees. Years later, the ‘V’ was changed to a stone garden which still stands today. This cenotaph is particularly special as it exists in the peace and tranquility of the Springwater Park. Springwater Park serves as the perfect backdrop to visit this cenotaph and reflect on the lives and loss of the 18 boys from Vespra who were lost in the Great War. One of our most iconic symbols of Remembrance is the poppy. As many of us know, the poppy became forever intertwined with Remembrance Day, when Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Every year, we wear the poppy as a symbol of our remembrance of the lives lost, and also as a way to help support our local legions through this annual fundraising drive.
Please contact your local legion to learn more ways to help support their efforts and to purchase your poppy this year. However you commemorate Remembrance Day this year, I will be joining you in honouring those who fought and those who fell. We will always remember them.
Doug Downey is the Member of Provincial Parliament for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.