Monday, November 11, 2013

Cloth of Thy Mother

After some fascinating debate at The Earliad over symbols of war and remembrance, the decision came today as to where our family should make our observances.  Our good friends the Hawkins were up from Camrose with their two young boys, which eliminated any lengthier services, regardless of whether they were indoors like the one at the Butterdome, or outdoors at Ainsworth Dyer Bridge.

As luck might have it, today was the dedication of the new Patricia Park in the Griesbach neighbourhood right next to ours, dedicated to Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.  Two battalions are stationed at the nearby Edmonton Garrison, and much of the regiment was on parade today; I would guess somewhere around 200 serving members plus a number of individuals in civilian dress but wearing their medals or berets.

Short speeches spoke not of the many accomplishments of the regiment, nor of battle honours won, but of the sacrifices needed at times of war and unrest, from its inception at the start of WWI, through to those lost in WWII, Korea, the Cold War, the Balkans and Afghanistan.  Representatives from the provincial and city governments, as well as Edmonton City Police and RCMP "K" Division laid wreaths at a centerpiece adorned with the regimental crest.  Gratitude was expressed to the support given by the city and its residents, especially those of the Griesbach and Castle Downs neighbourhoods.  I also appreciated the Chaplain  explicitly inviting those who may not be believers to perhaps take a moment to reflect, when he asked those who believed to join him in prayer.

There was a good amount of people in attendance, which is always gratifying to see, especially those who were there with younger children.  The mission in Afghanistan is finally winding down, for better or worse, but it dawned on me today that the faces of the servicemen and women I saw at Patricia Park are now closer to Fenya's age than my own, and I know they will have to work grueling hours in often dangerous conditions for little in the way of pay or recognition.  It is important to me that as many of us who are able to, continue to come to these events to show our support, as well as paying our respects for the comrades they remember, whether recent victims of war and unrest or from nigh on a century ago.

Remembrance should not be a solely intellectual exercise; it should involve community and recognition on a face to face or eye to eye level wherever possible, whether with those in uniform or our neighbours.  I wonder sometimes if the discontent that some people have with Remembrance Day and the traditional red poppy stems from the professional army of today overshadowing the volunteer army of yesteryear, but it doesn't matter.  The freedoms fought for and gained by our veterans include the right for individuals to treat this day as any other, and the opinion that somehow our November observances have moved beyond commemoration and into glorification is just as entitled to protection as any other I don't agree with.  At least those who wear the white poppy seem to agree how important it is that we not forget.

August 10, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and there will be a ceremony at Patricia Park that will include depositing a time capsule where the wreaths were laid today, to be opened in 50 years.  I hope we can be present for that as well.

In anticipation of the anniversary, a song was commissioned about the regimental camp flag, the "Ric-a-dam-doo" (allegedly Gaelic for "cloth of they mother") which was actually hand-made by Princess Patricia of Connaught herself.  The song was written by Bryan Adams and performed by the wives of the regiment, who call themselves Homefire.

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