Remembering Veterans on November 11

A lone remembrance cross stands proud at Juno Beach.
A lone remembrance cross stands proud at Juno Beach.

November 11, 1918 at 11 am was when the hostilities officially ended in the First World War. Because of this moment in history, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is commemorated around the world. Originally designed to remember those who died during World War I, it has come to mean so much more. Now, November 11 is a date when many countries remember and appreciate those who served or are serving in their armed forces, whether in a war or not.

In Canada, November 11 is called Remembrance Day and in some provinces it is a statutory holiday. Many people attend memorial events such as veteran parades, cenotaph ceremonies, or veterans’ luncheons and dinners. Some shops and restaurants stay closed until noon on that day out of respect. Those who do not have the day off, stop what they are doing at 11 am for a moment of silence to remember those who served in our armed forces in both wartime and peace.

In the USA, November 11 is called Armed Forces Day or Veterans’ Day. Because Memorial Day is when the USA officially remembers those killed in action, Veterans’ Day has become a way of honoring living veterans and is celebrated with parades, and veterans are often provided with free meals on this date.

In the United Kingdom, November 11 is Armistice Day but the UK added a second day of commemoration called Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday in November. On these remembrance days, parades and ceremonies take place including a National Service of Remembrance held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, which is attended by the queen and other members of the royal family.

In France, November 11, known as Le Jour du Souvenir (Remembrance Day), has been a public holiday since 1922. Workers have the day off and observe a minute of silence at 11 am. Military parades and ceremonies at war memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris are held as are church services to remember those who died during wartimes.

In Belgium, November 11 is a holiday and most offices and government agencies are closed. Throughout the country there are parades and battlefield commemorations. People spend the day at the many memorials and also attending church services to remember those who died in war.

In New Zealand, on November 11, called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, two minutes silence is observed at 11 am in memory of those who died while serving their country. There are also wreath-laying ceremonies including those at the National War Memorial in Wellington and the Auckland War Memorial Museum in Parnell, Auckland. Remembrance Sunday has become a day of commemoration at church services throughout the country.

In Australia, Remembrance Day is observed on November 11 with a National Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. Traditionally on that day, a eulogy for the Unknown Australian Soldier is read. November 11 is not a national holiday in Australia or New Zealand because these and other countries in the South Pacific have their own national holiday for memorial called Anzac Day.

Wearing a red poppy over one’s heart has become an emblem of remembrance in many nations. This practice evolved from the poem “In Flanders Fields.” Written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, the poem describes the scene where those killed during World War I are buried in a poignant passage, “…the poppies grow beneath the crosses row on row.” Worn by young and old alike from the beginning of November until the 11th, poppies are often placed at cenotaphs as a memorial to those who died. In France, a bleuet or cornflower is used as a symbol of remembrance in addition to the poppy.

Other countries remember their veterans on other days during the year, but the sentiment is the same: honoring those who served in our armed forces and fought for our freedom.

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