EDITORIAL: Remembrance is changing

Families starting to look harder at the meaning of Remembrance Day

How will you mark Remembrance Day this year?

In 2014, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War – so erroneously dubbed ‘the war to end all wars’ following the horrific conflict – we pause to reflect how different our world is today than when those young men and women left their homes for the far-flung battlefields of Europe.

At the same time, we recognize that the risks today’s service men and women face remain all too real. As recent events in Quebec and Ontario remind us, our Armed Forces personnel are not only at risk when fighting on foreign soil. Each day, both at home and abroad, service personnel strive to keep Canada and Canadians secure; sometimes putting their lives at risk in doing so.

It’s likely in response to this that local members of the Canadian Legion noticed a spike of early interest among those looking for poppies this year.

In fact, as the number of veterans from those early battles dwindles each Nov. 11, we see renewed demonstrations of remembrance from younger generations – from soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel, their families and friends, and the community at large.

Local author and historian Mark Zuehlke, this week awarded the 2014 Pierre Berton Award: the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media for his contributions to the promotion of Canadian history (see page A27), has seen a shift in recent years not only to those participating at Remembrance Day services, but also those actively seeking the stories that formed such a significant part of our national identity.

From the traditional readership of veterans and history circles who sought out his Canadian Battle Series titles, Zuehlke has seen significant growth among younger readership, nearly half of which are women in the 35- to 65-year-old demographic. These are people interested in their family stories, the generations that came before, and how their experiences shaped the society we now enjoy.

“I’m very heartened when I go to the cenotaphs on Nov. 11 and see all these families there with their kids; you didn’t see that 15 years ago,” Zuehlke reflected. “I think people started thinking about remembrance more.”