This past month my husband and I spent some time traveling around England and Wales. Prior to leaving Canada we had been advised to place small Canadian flags on our luggage and back packs so everyone would know we were Canadian. Not thinking much of it, I did pack a few Canadian pins into our carry-on luggage but failed to pin them on.
That was until the second evening of our trip. We had just finished placing our order in one of those quaint village pubs when the gentleman at the table beside us turned and said, “Oh, a couple of Americans! I have wanted to ask about that Trump fella you chose as a President.”
We were quick to fix that misunderstanding. He apologized and offered to buy us each a pint so to “mend the fence”. Once back at our hotel room I pinned a small Canadian flag on both of our backpacks and these little pins made all the difference!
We were stopped by waitresses, hotel staff and complete strangers wanting to share their Canadian stories; stories of family members and friends who now make Canada their home. We heard heartwarming stories of Canadian care and hospitality. One hotel worker asked if we had ever heard of a place called Kitchener-Waterloo as he will be moving there this September.
It wasn’t until we visited St. Margaret’s Church in Bodelwyddan, Wales that my Canadian pride filled my eyes with tears. In the churchyard of St. Margaret’s, locally named the ‘Marble Church’, is the cemetery of over 100 Canadian servicemen and women who died during the First World War and two servicemen of the Second World War. Carved into each headstone is a maple leaf along with the names, birthplace, and age of each Canadian. This churchyard is kept immaculate and our Welsh guide solemnly said, “To think they came over to help us fight a war that wasn’t their own and they never went home. We will always be grateful to Canada for this.”
In total, there was an estimated 15,000 Canadian Service men and women who went to England and Wales during WWI. Standing tall amid the graves is a Memorial and inscribed upon it is: “To the memory of Canadian soldiers who died at Kinmel Park Camp during the Great War. This memorial was erected by their comrades. Their name liveth for evermore.”
It was while we slowly paused at each grave, reading the names and ages that I began to tear up; young men and women between the ages of 19-21, mere children. I took off my pack back and taking the Canadian pin from it, I placed it among the Canadian coins and river rocks that were scattered around the memorial.
This weekend is Canada Day. A day set aside to celebrate and reflect on what it means to be Canadian. We have a past both prideful and painful and a future full of opportunities to mend the wrongs and honour the rights.
Happy Canada Day.