“Grandma, what is a Cenotaph?”
That was the innocent question from my granddaughter that spurred my thinking on how to explain the ways we commemorate the thousands of brave Canadians who gave their lives to protect the fragile peace we enjoy today.
In Calgary (where I was living at the time), the Field of Crosses is a Remembrance Project where they set up some 3,200 white crosses for those brave men and women who died overseas, having left southern Alberta to serve during the World Wars and UN missions that Canada participated in. My granddaughter was amazed at the visual display along Memorial Drive of thousands of simple white crosses, each inscribed with the name and military information of an individual person. The poignant display brought to life the names carved into the granite Cenotaph that she could barely see and could not understand. The Roary Club of Kelowna has also established a similar project with their local Legion and the Okanagan Military Museum. Here are photos from Kelowna.
Fast forward to 2021, when I landed up on Vancouver Island and joined the Qualicum Beach Rotary Club. Of course, I asked about the local Cenotaph and found the names of 67 local individuals who were listed as having died while serving overseas during one of the wars or peacekeeping duties that Canada has been involved in. The local Legion, the school district, and the Vancouver Island Military Museum all joined in the collaboration to replicate the Field of Crosses for Qualicum Beach. We are proud to report that the sixty-seven white crosses, each clearly labeled with the name, date of birth, military unit, rank, and age, are carefully installed in a park space close to the Cenotaph and are visited by the public and over a hundred local school children between November 1st and 12th each year. The Legion and Rotary Club hosts the children after they have visited the crosses and serves hot chocolate and cookies while students examine artifacts from the Military Museum and quiz legion members on their experiences.
Overall, the experience of Rotary Clubs partnering with local organizations to commemorate Canada’s role in promoting peace while defending our freedom has been an amazing opportunity for local Rotarians to become involved in a meaningful way in the communities they serve. This is a project that any Rotary Club can initiate, for more information, you can contact me at email@example.com