Marketing Manager CJ traveled to Europe on our Canadian World War History: Vimy to Juno Beach tour. Here, she shares her reflections about what made the trip such a poignant experience.
Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, Armistice day: November 11th goes by many names but the meaning stays the same. It was at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when World War I came to a close. Now, we take this day as an occasion to pause in order to recognize and thank veterans for their service.
November 11th has an even deeper meaning to me after going on one of our war memorial tours. I joined a Vimy Ridge Centennial tour with a group of Canadians to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I. The trip turned out to be one of the most impactful experiences I’ve ever had. I can’t accurately explain what it’s like to wander a cemetery filled with thousands of crosses marking the graves of young men—some 19, 20, or 21 years old. I can’t begin to recount the stories I heard, both in museums and from family members of veterans; stories of those whose lives were shaped or torn apart by these battles. What I can tell you is that you need to go and experience it all for yourself.
The tour also gave me the opportunity to pay respects to a relative of mine who is buried in Belgium. My great uncle Carl is a legend in our family. While he died in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II many years before I was born, he’s always been an important part of my life—from the stories my grandpa told about his older brother to “Carl’s Dream,” the beach house that his siblings built and named in his honor. It meant so much to me to be able to go and see his resting place. What surprised me most though, was to learn how grateful the local people are for his sacrifice. When I mentioned the visit to a few young Belgians I met, their response was “he saved us.”
Prior to this trip, I wouldn’t have considered myself to be a history buff or the type of person who looks forward to visiting some of Europe’s largest graveyards. Now, I would go so far as to say that it should be a requirement for all Canadians and Americans to get a first-hand look at the remnants of both world wars and to hear the stories of the men and women who persevered through them.
Have you taken a World War history tour? Tell us about your most memorable moments in the comments.