It’s impossible to miss them. Standing row upon row in the field in numbers that grow every year.
Each white cross representing an Albertan soldier killed on duty. 2700 so far, and that’s not all of them.
George Bittman, the man who curates the display, was there the day I stopped by. Placing the crosses is a labor of love born of respect for those who serve and who have served. Throughout the year he searches through the Veterans Affairs Canada website searching for names of soldiers from Albertan battalions. With the display in its third year now he also fields a number of calls from family members offering insight and information on their loved ones.
Sadly, the numbers grow each year not only as George discovers other soldiers in the archives but also as members are killed in current activity around the world.
It’s easy, living here, to place war and conflict out of our minds. We are not regularly faced with it; don’t have to live its reality; but it exists and is very real for those serving and for their families.
Walking along the rows I read the name, age, battalion and date of death on each cross. Many of them have the same surname, often with dates of death indicating subsequent wars. Were they from the same family? It’s entirely likely. Fathers and sons, nieces and grandfathers, cousins and brothers all proudly serving and sacrificing for us.
Today I make the effort to really remember and to be thankful for all of the sacrifices that have been made. Thank you.