Canadians pay tribute to soldiers

Thousands of grateful Canadians gathered at the National War Memorial and spilled out into surrounding streets today to pay tribute to the nation’s war dead.

Under brilliant sunny skies, rows of elderly veterans – many in wheelchairs – shed tears for their fallen comrades who never returned home from war more than six decades ago.

There was the thunder of a 21-gun salute, the melancholy lull of the Last Post and the cutting sound of a fly past of fighter jets. At exactly 11 o’clock the crowds fell silent for two minutes of solemn remembrance for generations of sacrifice.

Prince Charles and wife Camilla attended the ceremony, along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean.

The Prince issued a statement of support to Canadian troops now deployed in Afghanistan.

“We will be with you all in spirit in Kandahar as you pay your own tribute to those who, over many generations, have made the ultimate sacrifice in duty to Crown and country,” he said.

Veterans Affairs Minster Greg Thompson also issued a statement urging Canadians to remember those who fought for freedom every day – not just Nov. 11.

“These brave men and women – our Canadian Veterans – have earned the right to be called our nation’s truest heroes,” he said. “As we mark Remembrance Day, I encourage you to make remembrance more than something you feel – make it something you do. Show your appreciation for our veterans, for their sacrifices and achievements. Show how you remember – not just today, but every day.”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who paid tribute alongside the troops serving in Kandahar, said the valour of the armed forces continues a legacy built by past generations of veterans.

“A legacy that includes the battlefields of Flanders, Vimy and Amiens, the cold seas of the North Atlantic, the skies over Britain, the beaches of Normandy, and places like Hong Kong, Ortona and the Scheldt. It is a legacy that prevailed even in the darkest hours of the Cold War and while facing the challenges of a fragile peace in distant lands,” he said. “And like all Canadians, I will remember that the things most worth fighting for come at a tremendous cost. A cost that has spared no part of our great country.”

The ceremony – which officially marks the anniversary of the end of the First World War in 1918 – included the laying of hundreds of wreaths and ended with a parade of cadets, veterans and Canadian Forces members.