WADS Canadian Detachment honor veterans at Tahoma National Cemetery

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kimberly D. Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

The Canadian Detachment of the Western Air Defense Sector participated in the 20th Veterans Day program at the Tahoma National Cemetery Nov. 11 in Kent, Wash.

The U.S. Veterans Day and the Canadian Remembrance Day, sometimes known informally as Poppy Day, are observed on Nov. 11 each year. 

Veterans Day and Remembrance Day is a day to “remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve their country during times of war, conflict and peace,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Wappler, WADS Canadian Detachment commander.

In keeping with the theme of this year’s event, Saluting Our Korean War Veterans, Wappler spoke in front of the crowd gathered about the Canadian participation in the Korea War and the significance of the poppy flower as a remembrance symbol.

According to Wappler, over 26,000 Canadians from the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Army service members served in the Korean War with 266 dying in combat.

“The Canadian Navy sent eight destroyers to Korea,” Wappler said.  “The RCAF was heavily involved in airlift logistics operations to Korea.  There were 22 RCAF pilots serving on exchange with the USAF which accounted for nine Mig 15s destroyed. When the USAF ran low on F-86 Sabres, Canada supplied the USAF with 60 Sabres built in Canada.”

 The Korean War is just one of the conflicts the U.S. and Canada have fought side by side. 

“The close relationship our countries share is due to the sharing of the longest undefended border in the world, having the same values of freedom and equality, and the 1958 NORAD agreement which established a bi-national command centralizing operational control of continental air defenses,” Wappler explained.

On Remembrance Day, it is common to see Canadian servicemen and women and their families wearing a red poppy over their hearts.

“This is a Canadian tradition which came out of World War I,” Wappler said.  “The artillery used stirred up the soil and poppies would bloom in profusion in the battlefields, particularly in the Northern region of Belgium called Flanders. The irony of beautiful flowers blooming in the midst of the hell of war made a great impression on many who served and the tradition of the poppy was born.”

At the closing of Wappler’s remarks, he read one of the most notable war poems written during World War I, “In Flanders Fields.”  This poem was written by Lt. Col. John McRae, a Canadian Medical Corps officer, on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow solider Lt. Alexis Helmer.

In Flanders Fields 
by Lt. Col. John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.