Thousands gather at National War Memorial to mark Remembrance Day

Canada's Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial during Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa.

Credits: REUTERS/Patrick Doyle


OTTAWA -- William Sims can't hold back the tears when he remembers friends who didn't return from battle in the Second World War.

"Just ... Remember ... we know there will always be trouble," Sims said in a Remembrance Day interview near the National War Memorial. "I remember those that didn't come home. That's why I remember."

Sims, 90, of Toronto, attended his first ceremony in Ottawa with family on Sunday along with thousands who paid tribute to those who fought in the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and in Afghanistan.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston joined other dignitaries and veterans for the annual ceremony.

"The crowd was marvellous," Sims said, adding he felt respected and "proud to be Canadian."

Sims is among a shrinking number of Second World War veterans. All Canadians soldiers from the First World War have died.

As time marches on, Remembrance Day is also increasingly focused on modern soldiers who have stood on the front lines in conflict zones like Afghanistan.

There have been 158 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001, along with a diplomat, journalist and two medical workers. This hits close to home for Lt. David Banks who serves at Quebec's CFB Valcartier.

"Frankly, it is close to my heart," he said. "Remembrance Day is a great opportunity to remember the veterans of today, the veterans of yesterday, and remember those that continue to serve."

At the end of Sunday's ceremony, thousands placed their poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Solider - a symbolic, annual gesture to mark the fallen.

Poppies have been distributed in Canada since 1921 and the Royal Canadian Legion says sales aid veterans and their families with medical needs and other support.

The Silver Cross is presented to the mothers of all Canadian military members killed in the line of duty and the legion asks one of those mothers to be the "Silver Cross Mother" for the national

Remembrance Day service held in Ottawa.

Roxanne Priede, the 2012 representative, said she has no regrets about her son's decision to choose a military life.

Master Cpl. Darrell Priede, a military photographer, was killed in a 2007 Afghanistan helicopter crash.

"It was his passion, it was his work," Priede said.

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