At least twice a day I drive past the Wellington County Museum and Archives, but I never pass without taking notice of the grand building that stands atop the hill. No really, ask my kids. They roll their eyes when I point it out, but I know they look too. You can’t help but be impressed by this magnificent structure, a landmark of their hometown with an intriguing history. But the best time to drive by it is right now.
The lawn out front of the museum features the “We Will Remember Them” display. It’s a moving sight to see more than 500 markers, each with the names of a fallen soldier from Wellington County who made the ultimate sacrifice in either of the World Wars, Korea or Afghanistan. It puts the cost of war into perspective. Yet, when I drive by every day, I feel immense gratitude. I feel connected to these names who no doubt loved growing up here as much as my own children do, who no doubt loved their country as my family does, and who no doubt believed some day they would return here. Home. Wellington County.
I take time each year to walk through the rows and look for family names I’ve come to know. While none of them share my ancestry, I am aware of their sacrifices for their country. My country. Your country. Our towns. We live a good quality of life here in their shadows. I wonder what they would think of their amalgamated towns, of the growth of their communities, the technology on the farms, the traffic on the roads, the subdivisions and downtown cores. What would they make of this grand building that most would have known only as the place of refuge or a home for the aged in their day? I like to think they’re grateful too, to be remembered, to be honoured, to see that the future they died for held promise for those they loved, the family they left behind and the generations to follow. Do they know it wasn’t all for nothing?
I can’t recall my family attending Remembrance Day together because of school and work. It’s a shame we can’t be together especially as my father, a veteran of the Canadian Navy, marches in the parade. I don’t like to miss that, but like many, I’ll be at work. But the museum display is free for us to explore together. We like to go when the markers are lit by candles on the eve of November 11. It’s become a tradition that sparks conversations about our own heritage, the stories of ancestors that we pass down. It also opens up discussions about politics, history, and one of my favourite topics, the importance of Canada’s peace keeping role in the world. We talk about people in active duty, those who continue to serve our country. But it’s also a time to reflect on the privilege of being born Canadian. It’s important to me that my children understand how fortunate they are to grow up here. One day, I hope they travel enough to realize it for themselves.
I encourage you to make the trip to the Wellington County Museum before these markers come down. Bring your family. Walk amongst the rows of markers. Tour the exhibits inside. Start the conversations or just take a moment to quietly reflect. Make the time. Lest We Forget.