By Jill Kruse
Wreaths Across Canada has chosen to place a wreath on the headstone of every veteran buried in the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa, the first Sunday of every December starting December 4, 2011 at 1:30. It is their fervent hope that this practice will spread across Canada and that eventually every Military Cemetery will be adorned with wreaths, each and every year.
“The wreaths symbolize our thanks to those who have served their country in the military and now lie at rest,” says founder Craig McPhee. “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.”
Wreaths Across Canada Inc. is a non-profit organization started in 2007 by McPhee, a veteran of the Canadian Forces. It is based on the Wreaths Across America organization that started in 1992 at Arlington Cemetery and has now spread to 300 military cemeteries in the United States.
“It is our way to remember and honour those who served and teach our youth of Canada, the value of freedom,” says McPhee. “It is a deeply personal way for any Canadian to say ‘thank you for your service’ to Canada.
“We will invite the public and encourage young Canadians to participate in this most personal act of remembrance. We are committed to repeating this gesture of remembrance annually in Ottawa, and our vision is to have this ceremony of commemoration spread to every military cemetery across Canada.”
The mission statement for Wreaths Across Canada states: Remember those members of the Canadian Forces who lie in military cemeteries across Canada; Honour Those who have served Canada as members of our military forces; and Teach Canadian youth the value of freedom.
“On behalf of the Canadian Forces, I support this important initiative and I know it will be appreciated by all our men and women in uniform, past and present, and their families”, states General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of Defence Staff in a letter to the organization.
General (Ret’d) Rick Hillier is the Honourary Chairperson of Wreaths Across Canada and will speak during the ceremony.
McPhee says everyone is invited to attend the ceremony and lay a wreath. “Be sure to dress warmly, bring your children and friends. Wreaths will be provided.”
For more information visit wreathsacrosscanada.ca The site offers visitors opportunities to donate to the campaign, learn more about the history of Canada’s fallen heroes and lesson plans for teachers.