Every year, crosses are erected in a park along Memorial Drive to pay tribute individually to the thousands of Southern Albertans who made the ultimate sacrifice — defending freedom. This year, volunteers installed 3,620 crosses during Saturday’s snowfall.
For the past 13 years, students from Delta West Academy have placed silk poppies on the crosses which each bear the name, age at death, rank, regiment and date of death of a southern Alberta soldier who died in war or peacekeeping missions.For students like Makena Dennis, walking through the Field of Crosses gave her a chance to reflect on the ages of some of the soldiers they were honouring.
“I feel thankful for all the soldiers who risked their lives to protect us and our country,” said the grade seven student at Delta West Academy. “But I also feel sad because a lot of them are as young as 16. I’ve seen a couple of 15-year-olds in here too and some as old as 62.”
The director of admissions for Delta West Academy said it’s important for students to remember the legacy of what soldiers have done in the past and what peacekeepers continue to do.
“To know what happened in the past and to prevent future atrocities from happening, but also so that they are aware and they acknowledge that the freedoms we have today are because of what soldiers have done,” said Amanda Dennis with Delta West Academy.
Kent Griffiths is a veteran who served four decades with the Calgary Highlanders, including six months in Egypt as a peacekeeper. He is now a volunteer with the Field of Crosses.
“It’s exciting for me to see this because the youth are actually involved in the Canadian past,” Griffiths said. “They are embracing the sacrifices that our military members have made, not just by learning about them, but by physically involving themselves.”
This year, as the war continues in Ukraine, both young people and veterans paused to think about the soldiers serving there.
“I appreciate what Canada is doing as far as the refugees and supporting Ukrainians in their war effort. I wish there wasn’t war. Every soldier wishes that but it seems to happen over and over,” Griffiths said.
Seeing the students at the Field of Crosses, Griffiths remains optimistic. He said progress towards peace can happen because of the changing attitudes of the young.
“Being accepting is the first part of loving other people and all getting along,” he said.
“This latest generation are the most accepting people. The future is in good hands with them because they are going to be doing the right thing.
It’s frustrating for some older people to look at change, but there is some good change coming.”
Sunrise and sunset flag ceremonies at the Field of Crosses begin on November 1.