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Canadians remember amid the U.S. ghosts of war
By CARLY WEEKS
Courtesy of The Toronto Globe and Mail
11 November 2004
 
Amid the ghosts of American military accomplishment, Canadians came to remember.

At Arlington National Cemetery about a dozen Canadian military personnel, as well as a few civilians, gathered Thursday near the Cross of Sacrifice, erected 77 years earlier, to pay homage to the heroes of war.

The small Remembrance Day service is held each year at the Cross of Sacrifice, which is dedicated to Americans who died fighting for Canada in battle.

The cross memorializes those U.S. citizens who joined the Canadian armed forces and lost their lives prior to U.S. entry into the First World War.

While the rest of the United States paused to reflect yesterday on what is known as Veterans Day, these Canadians quietly kept up the traditions of Remembrance Day.

A short service was conducted in French and English, poppies were pinned to a large memorial wreath, and the padre officiating at the ceremony offered prayers for those Canadians who lost their lives in battle.

Earlier in the day, Canadian dignitaries and military personnel from around the world participated in a large, formal ceremony at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. Michael Kergin, Canada's ambassador to the United States, reminded the crowd of about 150 that Canadians should be proud of their history and those soldiers who fought to help maintain freedom in the world.

“Canadians continue to defend these rights, both at home and abroad,” Mr. Kergin said, reminding those in attendance of the nation's tradition of participating in peacekeeping missions.

But later in the day, the atmosphere shifted as the handful of people that made up the quiet Canadian contingent at Arlington National Cemetery created an air of humble, reserved reflection.

More than anything, stopping to reflect on Canada's war sacrifices in the United States capital, where a slew of services honouring American soldiers were under way, lent a spirit of camaraderie to the Remembrance Day service.

In fact, most of those in attendance knew each other by name and even car pooled to the service together. After the service, Warrant Officer Stu Preston of Trenton, who played the Last Post, joked with journalists, fellow military officers and a Canadian Embassy staff member about the possibility of seeing himself on national television.

In sharp contrast, as the Canadian service was under way, hundreds of people were gathered about 100 metres away at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to witness the changing of the guard.

By all accounts, the Canadian ceremony was typical—prayers, hearing the Last Post, observing a moment of silence—but here, in a country where poppies hold no remembrance, those Canadian traditions were significant.

At that spot on a hill at the foot of the Cross of Sacrifice, rows of white gravestones stretch into the distance, reminiscent of the fields of crosses in the poem that was recited hundreds of times in Canada yesterday.

The solemn surroundings of a cemetery where an open field of grass has been set aside for soldiers who may be killed in Iraq makes it impossible to forget the grim toll of war.
 
Updated: 11 November 2004