Earlier this week, members of the 1st Dorothy Crocker and 1st West Ottawa Wanderers (WOW) Trefoil Guilds had the privilege of volunteering with Wreaths Across Canada. Ceremonies were simultaneously held at Ottawa’s National Military Cemetery at Beechwood Cemetery, Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John’s, and at the Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. After the ceremony, families, friends, and volunteers were invited to place a wreath on the headstone of every veteran buried in the National Military Cemetery.
Wreaths Across Canada is a non-profit organization focused on remembering the men and women of the Canadian Forces who so faithfully served their country in times of peace and conflict and who now rest in cemeteries across Canada. Their hope is that this practice will spread across Canada and that eventually every Military Cemetery will be adorned with wreaths, each and every year, on the first Sunday in December. This simple but effective “thank you” is central to the entire program. The wreaths symbolize our thanks to those who have served their country in the military and now lie at rest. Whether they died in battle, training accidents or years after retiring from the military, all who lie buried in these hallowed grounds deserve the thanks of a grateful nation for defending the freedoms and lifestyle we enjoy today.
All too often when the image of Canadian war dead comes to mind, we think of those buried overseas at places like Vimy, Normandy, Ortona, or Hong Kong. But over 250,000 veterans, many of whom fought in and survived those same battles, are now buried in military cemeteries throughout the nation. Veterans Affairs Canada alone is responsible for the maintenance of over 200,000 veterans’ graves in Canada and each year that figure grows as more graves are codified and added to their care. As well, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemeteries in Canada is the final resting place for over 18,000 service men and women who died in Canada while serving during the two World Wars.
It is Wreaths Across Canada’s hope that their work will invoke a new sense of gratitude and commitment to Canadian veterans who have served their country.
We had the honour of visiting the headstone of Col. Karen Ritchie, who was such a shining light in Canadian Guiding. An esteemed member of the Canadian military, Karen brought so much talent, enthusiasm and energy to her volunteer work in Guiding, including serving on our Board of Directors.
By guest blogger Brigitte Trau. Brigitte is a Trex Guider with the 1st Ottawa Trex Unit, the Camp Director for GM2016, and a full-time employee of Defence Construction Canada (Crown Corporation) for the last 25 years.