Editorial Comment

Lest We Forget


Last week Dian and I had the honor of attending Sgt.Wilson’s Army Show at R.A.M. in Wetaskiwin. The shows performers all hailed from the Netherlands and two of the characters and organizers of the show, Ine van der Vorst Artistic Producer and Erik Graumans Creative Producer, have been touring Canada during Remembrance month for 18+ years.  This year’s performance was organized by local farm operator Jan De Goeij who has known of the group for 15 years
Music from the war years was the order of the day and the crowd was into it in a big way as the strains of Glen Miller, the Andrew Sister, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Lynn and Frankie Laine filled the air. Local war vet Art Smith could be seen taping his toes to the upbeat music.
During the preamble to the show, Jan De Goeij gave a short presentation describing some of the things the Dutch have done to show their appreciation of the Canadian war effort in Europe and the subsequent liberation of Holland in 1945. He mentioned the fact that the Town of Groninger bought a large tract of land as a living monument to the Canadian Liberators of their country. As part of the honor, Dutch citizens purchased and planted 30,000 maple trees in this now named “Liberation Forest” which was officially unveiled in 1995. The woodland area in which the Liberation Forest is located was the scene of resistance activity during the war. 
There is a poem entitled "The Liberation of Groninger by Canadian Armed Forces in 1945", which is on display in the Canadian Embassy in the Netherlands. The last two lines of the poem are: "To commemorate them we dedicate a forest yet, Maple Leaves fell for us, lest we forget"
Mr De Goeij also mentioned the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.  Many of those buried there died in the Battle of the Rhineland to clear the territory between the Maas and the Rhine in February and March 1945. Other Canadians buried here died earlier or later in the southern part of The Netherlands and in the Rhineland. The cemetery contains 2,610 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, of which 2,338 are Canadian.  There is also one Canadian Victoria Cross recipient buried here, Sergeant Aubrey Cosens of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, who was killed in action at Mooshof, Germany, on the 26th of February, 1945.
The cemetery is unusual among Commonwealth War Graves, in that many of the soldiers buried here were moved across international boundaries from their place of death.  This is due to the efforts of General H.D.G. “Harry” Crerar, commander of the First Canadian Army in Europe, who desired a single, consolidated cemetery for Canadian soldiers killed in The Netherlands and northern Germany. This cemetery is tended to solely by thousands of Dutch school children in remembrance of the sacrifice made by Canadians on their behalf.
Meanwhile here in Canada, school children across the country are being allowed to opt out of Remembrance Day ceremonies being celebrated during Remembrance Week. Comments on many blog sites have expressed disgust at such a notion. Veterans expressed disappointment with that position.   Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney joined them in objecting to the opt-out clause."I find it offensive," Kenney tweeted. "They don't opt out of the freedoms secured by our war dead."Alberta Premier Alison Redford expressed disappointment Friday about a similar decision made by an Edmonton school board. "It is our duty to respect and to honour everyone who has made that sacrifice," Redford told reporters.
One particular blogger said it best for me personally: The old adage of being doomed to repeat history because we don't know our own history. And yet now some are allowed to opt out. It's more like opting in, opting in to doom, misguided idealism, and a general lack of understanding that our freedoms aren't free. They were bought and paid for by someone else's labours and lives. To turn our backs on them now is to turn our backs on ourselves, our rights, our privileges, and our freedoms.  I can't opt out of being thankful for everything handed to me by those that gave all, and being secured for me by those who would give all. Anything less is not possible.
As an addition to this article I must say that for the best part, we have a great bunch of young folks here in Alberta and likely Canada and they do a great many things to make sure the focus always remains on those that gave their all, especially during Remembrance week. But children mimic their parents and the actions of other grown-ups that they come in contact with.
Lets make sure that we as parents, mentors and leaders in the community never forget, and never forget to teach others of the huge sacrifice made on our behalf during the first 45 or so years of the last century.
I did a bit of sniffing around on the internet and discovered that the higher estimates of dead in direct relationship to the second world war alone was 72 million.
Add to that about 17 million for the first world war and we have a staggering number.
Let’s never forget that this took place or we may be doomed to repeat this kind of horror.

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