Faithfully yours - A defining moment
- Published on Sunday, April 16, 2017
By Neil Strohschein
The Neepawa Banner
This past Sunday (April 9), flags at federal buildings, RCMP detachments, Legion halls and other similar buildings flew at half-mast. This simple act marked the 100th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles in Canada’s military history—the WWI Battle of Vimy Ridge.
In just four days, Canadians achieved what British and French armies had failed to do. They took the ridge and they held it—something few observers expected them to do. The Germans were the most skeptical of all. “Send the Canadians,” they dared the Allies. “Those who survive the battle will fit into a rowboat.” That was just the challenge the Canadians needed.
In the introduction to his book on Vimy Ridge, historian Pierre Berton tells of a Canadian soldier who, in a letter written to his dad, spoke of the immense pride he saw of those who wore the Maple leaf on their uniforms. “All we ask,” he wrote, “is that we should not be drafted in with the Regular Battalions. We would be better by ourselves. We want to show by our own efforts that Canadians are as good as (everyone else).”
Well, they got their wish—and they stood the test; but at a terrible price. Canadians sustained 10,602 casualties of which 3,958 were fatal. Of those who died, 3,000 lie buried on French soil, close to the site of the battle in which they fought. Today, a huge marble memorial stands atop the ridge where this battle took place.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment in Canada’s history. It was far more than just another hard-fought victory. This battle had been planned, fought and won by Canadian soldiers under Canadian command; and the world had learned that in military operations, whatever the assignment, Canadians would get the job done or die trying.
Our heroics at Vimy earned for us the right to go to war when we chose to do so and on terms that we, through our elected representatives, would set. That is a right we have asserted ever since. It was paid for by the blood of our citizens; and it is a right we must never surrender.
While Vimy was certainly a defining moment for Canada and Canadians, it was not the most defining moment in human history. That moment happened 2,000 years ago when God’s only begotten son, a man who had done nothing to deserve death, hung on a cross and died to pay the wages of sin (death—see Romans 6:23) for all humanity. His death atoned for every act of sin—past, present and future—and made it possible for you, for me, and for all people to be forgiven, to have our past record erased, to be welcomed into God’s family and to be granted eternal life.
The soldiers at Vimy Ridge gave their lives so that we could live in a land where people live in peace with their neighbors and where all people can achieve their goals in this life.
Christ died so that you and I could have peace with God—a peace that he gives to all who believe in him—a peace that comes from within, a peace that fills us and that enables us to be at peace within ourselves and to live in peace with those around us.
The peace won at Vimy lasted less than 30 years. It still eludes us.
The peace God gives will last forever—once given, it will never die and can never be taken from us. That is the peace we celebrate today (Good Friday).