Each year, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, my family and I join countless people around the world as we pause to remember the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war.
We call it Remembrance Day in Canada, and this year the day marks the 99th anniversary of the peace agreement that formally ended World War One. We will remember.
What makes it extra special for my family is that we happen to live on Valour Road, an ordinary street in West End Winnipeg nestled between Spruce Street and Ashburn. It used to be known as Pine Street, but was renamed in 1925 because of a remarkable occurrence: three men from the same block were awarded the Victoria Cross for valour in recognition of their heroic acts in World War One.
The story of Corporal Leo Clarke, Sergeant-Major Frederick William Hall and Lieutenant Robert Shankland is told in a “Heritage Minute” often seen on Canadian television. How extraordinary is the fact they grew up as near neighbours? Very. Only 94 Canadians and Newfoundlanders have received this honour, the last in 1945. It is a rare honour.
Thus it is a rare honour for us to live on such a storied street. Back in the early 1990s we began attending a commemorative ceremony at a small marker at the end of the street. Then we’d go out for breakfast. Over the years the number of people attending grew to several hundred. Recently the city built a small park with a sculpture of three soldiers and a beautiful mural graces a business building just down the street from my home.
So each November 11 my family gathers with many of our neighbours, walking down Valour Road to the park to hear the story of three brave soldiers once again; to observe a moment of silence; to see young soldiers consider the potential cost of their calling; to remember battles past, lives lost and lives saved. We come to remember and we come to pray.
As military chaplain Mike Davis once stated so helpfully, we need to “pray for the Spirit of God to invade the culture of war.” I echo that prayer when I visit the Valour memorial. Yes, indeed: May the Spirit of God invade the culture of war.
Doug Koop was formerly the Editorial Director of Christian Week and managing editor of SEVEN.
This article was originally published in 2009. References to dates have been revised.