Reflecting on the past going forward: The significance of Remembrance Day
By Christian Kindrachuk, Staff Writer
“There’s an old saying: ‘History repeats itself.’ If you don’t understand history, you run the risk of having to make the same mistakes again,” says Dave Love, president of the Calgary Military Historical Society.
That’s why on Nov. 11, Canadians host Remembrance Day ceremonies all across the country to pay tribute to their fallen soldiers and to remember the sacrifices Canadians have made in the past and today. The holiday provides an opportunity for Canadians to experience first hand accounts of history from veterans, and learn from experts adding a deeper level of understanding that could otherwise be missed.
“Military action, and unfortunately, warfare and conflict is all too much a part of our society and our culture,” says Love.
Love has been collecting military memorabilia for over 50 years starting when he was 13 years old. He does anything from appraisals, identifications and has helped with making storyline and storyboards for the Military Museum in Calgary.
Love says it’s one thing to know about the history, but it’s something different when it comes to appreciating it. Getting that appreciation for military history and conflicts doesn’t just come from books, it comes from veterans who have lived through the experience, such as veteran Jamie Jamieson, who is 87.
Jamieson, originally from Calgary, came from a family of nine with a history of military service.
“My dad Frank was in Vimy Ridge, four brothers in the Second World War, three in the Canadian Army, one in the American and I’m a Korea boy,” says Jamieson, referring to his own service in the Korean War.
Jamieson joined the army at age 17 because he says there wasn’t much opportunity for employment in 1949. He joined the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) regiment in 1950 right before the Korean War. Jamieson went to Korea as a volunteer.
It’s not uncommon to know someone who is in the military in Canada, says Love, adding he had family members who fought in World War I and his dad fought in the Second World War.
“Most families in Calgary as well as most across much of Canada, […] have a member of their family in uniform,” says Love. These experiences are often shared and passed down through veterans’ families.
Jamieson spent 402 days in Korea and tells the story of how he spent most of the time working on the front lines.
“After you get there, it’s on your mind and you say to yourself, ‘You don’t complain. What am I doing here? I didn’t have to be here, I volunteered, but what an experience,’” says Jamieson, adding that what is experienced in a military conflict is something that never quite goes away.
“It’s hard to explain whether you accept them or not, they’re embedded for life, and the memories — if you want to call them memories — never go away because you do get flashes,” he says.
Once Jamieson got back, he continued to work with the Canadian military. He has gone on peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and in Germany. After 17 years in the Canadian army, he left to do other work and is now retired.
“It opens your eyes,” says Jamieson. “The good days and bad days, of course. Well, that’s life wherever you go.”
Someone like Jamieson who has experienced war first hand is not as common to see today. Nearly 27,000 Canadians fought in Korea, according to Veterans Affairs Canada, while World War II had over one million Canadians who served. However, today, there are only a few thousand veterans from World War II, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands earlier in the century.
Calgary specifically has a very strong history with the military. In 1875, the Northwest Mounted Police were stationed in Calgary and played the role of law enforcement and military presence, says Love.
“Calgary was just about the best preferred posting in Canada, and the reason is the city supported them. From day one, they’ve always supported the military,” says Love. “By going to Remembrance Day, I think this is one way to remember the service of these people and appreciate them.”
Remembrance Day is not just about giving the ‘motherhood statement’ of honouring those who gave their lives and efforts, but it’s about having that appreciation and deeper understanding of what people went through and the reasons behind that.
“The reality is, I think it’s become a far more personal and, in some ways, there’s an intimate need to do this,” says Love.