Friday, April 09, 2010

Vimy Ridge Ceremonies

Today is Vimy Ridge Day. We also remember the passing of an era with the death of John Babcock, the last living veteran of the Great War. The Red Ensign flies again today! The painting above is a memorial to our Honoured War Dead. I join with all Canadians to honour those who fought and died so that we might be free.

Our Sovereign Lady remembers:
"We pause today to mark not only the 93rd anniversary of this Nation's victory at Vimy Ridge but also to pay tribute to the passing of a truly remarkable generation who helped to end the most terrible conflict the world had ever known," the Queen said.

"Theirs was a story of unspeakable horror, unmitigated heroism and — ultimately — of inspiring victory. This tremendous sacrifice can rightly be regarded as a defining moment in the history of Canada and is one which we will never forget."

"In our minds and in our hearts always, we will remember them."

HM Governor General Michaelle Jean remembers:
The freedom we enjoy in this country came at a very high cost.

Unfortunately, it is not shared by most people on the planet and is still fragile today.

At the turn of the last century, men and women were called to defend this freedom and paid dearly for their sacrifice.

John Babcock was the last Canadian soldier who could tell us about that war, the First.

It was a war known for its killing fields.

It was a brutal and perilous war fought in the trenches, one in which an entire generation of young people courageously braved gunfire and cannons, often at great peril to their lives.

After surviving one of the bloodiest centuries in history and setting a remarkable record for longevity, John Babcock died at the venerable age of 109.

Neither he nor anyone else is left to talk about it, but their spirit lives on in the memories of those of us honouring them today.

I believe a ceremony like this has no meaning unless we who survive—and unless future generations—recognize that the memory of these men and women whose heroic acts determined the fate of all of humanity, including our own, is extremely precious.

Precious because memory lasts much longer than we do, longer than stone monuments.

Precious also because of the wisdom we draw from it, wisdom that lights the path before us, towards a world that is increasingly peaceful.

While it is important that we acknowledge the magnitude of the contribution made by our veterans, it is just as important to recognize that of the men and women who, still today, go to trouble spots around the world to free entire populations from the yoke of tyranny.

The heritage left by the men and women who fought for greater justice, for greater freedom, for greater humanity, must stand the test of time.

It is our greatest responsibility.

To those who came before us, and to those who follow.

We must never forget.

HM PM Stephen Harper remembers:

"Fierce warriors with tender hearts, rock-ribbed patriots with a sense of international responsibility, these men and women embodied a greatness that later generations of Canadians have striven to emulate. With the passing of John Babcock only a few weeks ago, we have sadly lost our last living link to this generation of admirable Canadians," said Mr. Harper.
"But while those who fought in that epic struggle may have passed entirely from the face of the earth, their legacy lives on all around us. These men and women inherited the country born of the dream of the Fathers of Confederation and they helped to transform it into the Canada that we know and love today, the most peaceful, prosperous, generous nation the world has ever known."
He went on to say that Canadians "should not be captive to the past."
"But, as the final trumpet sounds for the admirable Canadians, neither can we be ignorant about the price they paid, nor the gift they left us. Freedom was that gift, ladies and gentlemen; freedom, and the responsibility to use it for great purposes.
"As Canadians, let us always be tireless, as they were, for that which is right and good."

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