Tuesday November 11, 2014

Illustration by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday November 11, 2014

This Remembrance Day will be different: Cpl. Cirillo has made it real

(Written by Richard Foot) This year, at cenotaphs across Canada, Remembrance Day will be different. For the first time in many years, the ceremonies will feel relevant and raw to most of the gathered pilgrims. Corporal Nathan CirilloÕs killing has made sure of that.

Canadians first started communing around military cenotaphs in 1902, at the end of the Boer War, when the nation indulged in a great, patriotic burst of memorial-building. Monuments to CanadaÕs first foreign war were erected in city parks and town squares from Victoria to Halifax. Over the next decade, huge crowds would gather around them to celebrate Ð yes, celebrate Ð the imperial victory in South Africa.

By 1918 the mood had changed dramatically. The trauma and slaughter of the First World War meant that new memorials would be built, but this time they were mostly sombre creations Ð like the National War Memorial where Cpl. Cirillo was gunned down on Oct. 22 Ð designed not to celebrate military achievement but simply to honour the dead. The hour of annual remembrance was fixed at 11 a.m. on 11 November, the time and date of the Armistice in Europe.

Over the century that followed, through the Second World War, the Korean War and Afghanistan, Canadians have faithfully gathered around memorials each November to remember the legions left dead or wounded in these conflicts. When memories were still fresh Ð especially in the aftermath of the Second World War, with its huge number of returning warriors Ð Remembrance ceremonies were undoubtedly more relevant occasions. Many Canadians would have personally known the pain and heartache of war in their lifetime.

The war in Afghanistan certainly made real the risks and consequences of war. Suddenly, there were families in our own communities with sons and husbands killed and injured overseas. These families