The opening ceremony for Kelowna’s third annual Field of Crosses Remembrance Day tribute was hosted at the cenotaph near City Park on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
In addition to a cross for the Unknown Soldier, 227 white crosses were also installed on nearby greenspace to honour the lives of those Canadian Armed Forces personnel from the Kelowna area who died in service. The memorial is on display until Nov. 12.
“The idea is you have a visual representation of the names that are on the Cenotaph, as another form of remembrance for the community,” said Keith Boehmer, chairperson for the committee for the Field of Crosses 2021 and military historian at Kelowna Museums.
“Recognizing that Canada’s war dead were buried overseas up until the Afghanistan War, where we were bringing them home. For Canadians to go and visit Europe is an obstacle, so here we’re bringing that presentation to the community.”
A number of dignitaries were in attendance, as well as a handful of veterans, which includes 95-year-old Rev. Dick Fletcher, a WWII veteran with the Royal Canadian Navy.
With the help of members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26, as well students from Rutland Elementary School, Bankhead Elementary School and Kelowna Christian School, Fletcher laid down a wreath at the cross of the Unknown Soldier — his first time doing so.
“Those kids died for our freedom. We sometimes abuse our freedom – badly,” said Fletcher. “To have the honour to lay the wreath for the Unknown Soldier is really – it’s indescribable.”
Boehmer said that the significance of honouring the fallen during Remembrance Day gets more special every year.
“People volunteered their lives, their health, themselves to service of a bigger cause. These are the ones who paid the ultimate price for that, as well as the veterans that have returned back to our communities,” said Boehmer. “Those are examples to every generation since – to pay attention to the lessons of history, pay attention to the harms of poor politics and poor habits.”
Similarly, Fletcher said that on a scale of importance from one to 10, paying tribute on Remembrance Day is a 15.
“The highest possible,” he said. “I feel heavy. I feel very — I can’t say satisfied. But the point is, to see the younger people around here witnessing what’s going on is the important thing.”
The City of Kelowna has confirmed that there will be no Remembrance Day parade. Last year, the local Legion hosted an intimate wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph, which was closed to the public and instead broadcasted for residents to watch at home.
City staff said this year’s Nov. 11 ceremonies may be kept small and be held virtually again.