Would you risk your life for someone you’ve never met? For the 3,620 soldiers represented in the Field of Crosses, the answer to this question would be an astounding, “yes.”
For many including myself, there is rarely a doubt about the lengths one would go to protect their loved ones. It is another story, however, when it is for the sake of their country. Yet, over two million Canadians have served and more than 120,000 have lost their lives to protect the freedoms of strangers, just like you and me.
We experience those freedoms every day; it is present when we go to the park, watch the news and send our children to school. Beyond the heroic efforts of our WWI and WWII veterans, Canadians today continue to serve as if we were their own family – and in a way, I feel we are.
It has been more than two decades since I was first inspired by a row of crosses honouring veterans in the small town of Menlo, Georgia. Here, I felt immense connection to each cross knowing it represented a fallen soldier that – without judgement or hesitation – protected my peace and freedom as a Canadian. Thus, I felt compelled to bring this profound memorial display to my community here in Calgary.
Field of Crosses was first introduced to Calgarians in 2009 with merely 340 crosses. This year, more than 100 volunteers helped to erect 3,620 commemorative crosses that span five acres of Memorial Drive. What was once a small, private memorial has transformed into Eleven Days of Remembrance, where special homages are made to Peacekeepers, Indigenous veterans, woman veterans and many other groups each year.
Then on November 11, we unite as a community to remember, honour and thank the fallen, our veterans and those still serving. As time goes on and families grow, more generations join in the long-standing traditions of this memorial day.
Youth critical for Remembrance
Youth play a vital role in preserving this and the legacies of our soldiers for generations to come. It is for this reason that Remembrance Day is as much about education as it is about recognition. While sometimes difficult, it is necessary that the atrocities of war – as well as the loyalty and commitment of our soldiers – are never forgotten.
Remembering also allows us to learn from our past. In recent years, awareness has grown regarding the horrendous injustices experienced by Indigenous veterans. Indigenous veterans were not offered the same assistance after the First World War, including denial of benefits. These experiences, among others, reveal to us where we must grow as a nation.
Part of that growth includes taking better care of one another. Just as our veterans live each day with their experiences overseas, my wish for Canadians is to extend their empathy, care and gratitude towards our soldiers long after November 11.
As the holidays quickly approach, make a point to remember those who fought for our overall freedoms. Before getting into a political argument at your next family dinner, know that millions of Canadians have defended yours – and your opposing family member’s – freedom to disagree. Make Remembrance Day a reminder of your commitment to gratitude every day of the year.
I encourage all to visit the Field of Crosses or pause for a moment of silence at 11 a.m., there is no wrong way to remember – it only matters that you do.
- J. Murray McCann is the Founder of Field of Crosses. Inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2021, Murray McCann is a visionary entrepreneur and community leader who has reinvested his success into programs that honour fallen soldiers, support homeless veterans, as well as growing Field of Crosses and inspiring southern Albertans to honour our soldiers every year.