The Field of Crosses
Each November 3500 crosses are erected in a park along Memorial Drive, in Calgary, to pay tribute individually to the thousands of Southern Albertans who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom. In addition a separate part of the park is set aside, with 120 unique crosses, for a special memorial to the 120,000 heroes from across Canada who lost their lives fighting for this great country. All day and night people walk through the 5 acre memorial, which is lit 24/7, reading the crosses and being reminded that our freedom was not free.
Each morning from November 1 up to and including November 11, at sunrise, a moving flag raising ceremony is held and school choirs, military pageantry, buglers, pipers, silver star families and honoured guests pay tribute to our fallen. Each evening at sunset a similar service is held and flags are lowered. Each morning, following the sunrise service, school students, veterans and special guests are hosted to breakfast at a nearby Legion where veterans and police officers sit with students and engage in meaningful conversations. On November 11 a touching Remembrance Day service is held and attended by over 5,000 and televised and streamed to 300,000 more.
The Canadian Army Veterans Ypres 3 CAV, along with hundreds of dedicated volunteers assist in this extensive undertaking, cleaning the crosses, installing the bases, erecting and taking down and storing the crosses.
The Field of Crosses is the inspiration of Calgary businessman and philanthropist, Murray McCann. Traveling in Georgia, Murray was deeply moved by how the community of Menlo, Georgia, with a population of less than 500, was commemorating their fallen by erecting crosses by the roadside. He realized how fortunate he had been to live his life in freedom because of the thousands of Canadians who had given their lives to make that freedom possible.
Upon returning to Calgary he contacted his long time friend, George Bittman who headed up The Calgary Poppy Fund, with the idea of erecting crosses as tribute to the thousands of Southern Albertans who fell defending our freedom. The crosses would stand in military cemetery formation for the 11 days of The Calgary Poppy Fund Campaign as an annual visible reminder of those who gave up their lives. Unfortunately George Bittman passed away on December 3, 2011 in a tragic accident. He is greatly missed and his spirit will live on in this project.
What for 10 years was a private memorial, founded and funded by a private foundation, has now been gifted to the public as a registered charity to assure that 100 years from now we still remember and we never forget.
The soldier stood and faced God, which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining just as brightly as his brass.
“Step forward now, you soldier, How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek? To my church have you been true?”
The soldier squared his shoulders and said, “No, Lord, I guess I ain’t because those of us who carry guns, can’t always be a saint.
I’ve had to work most Sundays and at times my talk was tough,
and sometimes I’ve been violent, because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny, that wasn’t mine to keep . . . .
though I worked a lot of overtime when the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help though at times I shook with fear, and sometimes, God forgive me, I’ve wept unmanly tears.
I know I don’t deserve a place among the people here.
They never wanted me around, except to calm their fears.
If you’ve a place for me here, Lord, it needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much but if you don’t, I understand.”
There was a silence all around the throne, where the saints had often trod, As the soldier waited quietly for the judgment of his God.
“Step forward now you soldier, you’ve borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets, you’ve done your time in Hell.”