Every November, 3,500 crosses are installed to pay tribute to the Southern Albertans that made the ultimate sacrifice defending Canadian’s freedom.
The Field of Crosses is installed on Memorial Drive, between Centre St. and 3 St. NW in Calgary.
A separate part of the park is set aside, where 120 unique crosses are installed—the special memorial to the 120,000 heroes from across Canada who lost their lives fighting for Canada.
“All day and night, people walk through the 5-acre memorial, which is lit 24/7, reading the crosses and being reminded that our freedom was not free,” stated Major (Ret’d) Kent Griffiths MMM, CD, Communications and Military Protocol, Field of Crosses.
There are several ceremonies at the Field of Crosses throughout the month.
Daily Flag Raising Ceremony
Griffiths explained that each morning from November 1 to November 10, a moving flag-raising ceremony is held at sunrise, and choirs, military pageantry, buglers, pipers, families of the fallen, and honoured guests pay tribute to “our war dead.”
Each evening at sunset, a similar service is held, and flags are lowered.
On November 10, the sunset ceremony includes a candlelight event (the Night of Lights). A vigil follows at the cenotaph, where a single sentinel stands with a lantern in hand until sunrise.
A Remembrance Day service will be held on November 11, and it will be televised and streamed to more than 300,000 viewers. Griffiths mentioned that attendance at the sunrise and sunset events are open to the public. However, on November 11, spectators will be by invitation only.
Since COVID-19 has made participation in Remembrance events a challenge, Valour Canada has partnered to produce short vignettes to tell the stories of some of the fallen represented at the Field of Crosses, as well as an educational virtual Remembrance Day video.
A Team of Volunteers
“3 CAV (The Canadian Army Veterans Group), along with hundreds of dedicated volunteers assist in this extensive undertaking, cleaning the crosses, installing the bases, erecting and taking down and storing the crosses, said Griffiths. “The series of events are also supported by the Calgary Police Service, Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, Alberta Sheriffs, local Navy, and Army Reserve Units, the Royal Canadian Legion, as well as many civilian sponsors.”
The best way to participate is to visit the Field of Crosses website here where people can read the crosses.
On Remembrance Day, people will also be able to watch the Ceremony on GlobalTV. In addition, Griffiths said people could also visit the Roll Call of the Fallen on their website and participate in the 5K Memorial Walk / Run.
About the Field of Crosses
The Field of Crosses is the inspiration of Calgary businessman and philanthropist Murray McCann.
“Traveling in Georgia, Murray was deeply moved by how the community of Menlo, Georgia, with a population of less than 500, was commemorating their fallen by erecting crosses by the roadside,” Griffiths said.
“He realized how fortunate he had been to live his life in freedom because of the thousands of Canadians who had given their lives to make that freedom possible.”
When he came back to Calgary, he reached out to his long-time friend, George Bittman, who headed up The Calgary Poppy Fund with the idea of erecting crosses to commemorate and pay tribute to the thousands of Southern Albertans who lost their lives defending our freedom.
“The crosses would stand in military cemetery formation for the 11 days of The Calgary Poppy Fund Campaign as an annual visible reminder of those who gave up their lives,” said Griffiths.
10 Year Tradition
For more than 10 years now, it has been a Calgary tradition.
According to Griffiths, the mission and the commitment of the Field of Crosses Memorial organization is to get present and future generations to always remember the thousands of men and women from Southern Alberta and across Canada who gave their tomorrows for our today.
“It is so inspirational being part of what for 10 years was a private memorial, founded and funded by a private foundation, that has now been gifted to the public as a registered charity to assure that 100 years from now we still remember, and we never forget,” Griffiths expressed.
He added, “The organizers are amazing, the volunteers are so selfless, and the visitors are genuinely appreciative.”
Visit the website here (www.fieldofcrosses.com) and click Donations on the top right of the page. People may also support the Adopt a Cross or 5K Memorial Walk / Run by clicking the applicable tabs.
Each year the cost of presenting this tribute exceeds $200,000, and the Field of Crosses organization is seeking to raise that from their community.