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Direct from Ottawa - May 27

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Saturday, May 27, 2000

For Him, For Us, Our Hope is Peace

Mr. Chuck Murphy (right) upon arrival in Ottawa on May 25 talks with Veterans Affairs Minister Mr. George Baker after travelling from Vimy, France, with the remains of the Unknown Soldier

Nicholas Butt, is 10-years young. He appears reserved, a little shy. Today, he is the center of attention amidst a room filled with veterans, Canadian Forces members and media. Nicholas has a passion for his country's military history. And a firm belief that peace will only continue to be possible if he passes his heart's flame to other youth of his generation. When he stands up to the microphone, there is no quiver in his voice, his shyness dissipates and his emotion contagious.

This young gentleman put together a very special project for the millennium. Nicholas, not only composed music for the pipes and drums but put poetry to the lament for the Tomb of Unknown Soldier. His music was chosen for the backdrop of a video the Department of National Defence created for the Tomb, a video in which Nicholas plays the lead role. Today, we are honoured to hear his words as well as preview the video.

Why did Nicholas think this project important? "For our veterans, to the unknown soldier, this lost Canadian who represents all those in the last century who fought so bravely and died for Canada's freedom, I would like to say from this century, thank-you. In order to assure our future, we must appreciate our past, and learn of our history. We must take all measures possible if peace is to continue to reign in our country. I want the youth of my generation to understand and appreciate all that you have done for us, for Canada and for peace."

The Funeral Commander, Brigadier-General Michel Maisonneuve presided over the reception and video screening held at the Canadian War Museum. It was a touching point, as he began by sharing our collective sadness over the sudden passing of the President of the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, Mr. Chuck Murphy.

"We're feeling sad today. As you're aware we are in the midst of bringing home our Unknown Soldier, but also we had very difficult news yesterday morning when we heard that Chuck Murphy, the President of the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion passed away in his sleep. It is with much sadness that I stand here. I would like to express my condolences on behalf of the Canadian Forces and everyone associated with this project to all members of the Royal Canadian Legion for the loss of your President. Also, to his family. My best wishes to you in this very difficult time. I met Chuck and was with him in Vimy just a few days ago. As you know, he was one of the instigators of this project. He was able to witness the repatriation of the remains to Canada, which would have been one of his greatest wishes. It's sad to see this happen at this point. We will certainly remember him along with all the others that will be remembered through the Unknown Soldier."

Canada War Museum

Standing in the Canada War Museum, surrounded by manifestations of Canada's war history, with youth and veterans alike, with members of the Canadian Forces, the bridge between the generations seems fully intact. Dr. J. L. Granatstein, Director of the Canadian War Museum and one of Canada's most eminent historians, summed up his feelings on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier project.

"I think it's very important to remember what our grandfathers and grandmothers did in this century. We don't often remember. We don't often teach it and I think that's a tragedy. Having the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier now at the National Cenotaph in Confederation Square will, I hope, serve as a focal point for remembrance. Certainly it should. This museum also tries to act as a memorial. Our three watchwords are preserve, remember and educate. It is in someways the education part that is the most important. One of our major tasks is teaching the new generation of Canadians something about why this is the country it is. Vimy Ridge, that Easter Monday battle in 1917, is one part of that military history. It was the first time that the Canadian Corps, four divisions strong, fought together. It was the first time the German position in Vimy was taken after repeated attempts by the British and the French. It was a perfect set piece battle. A masterpiece of planning, spearheaded by one of the greatest Canadian soldiers ever, Sir Arthur Curry. It succeeded in the face of determined opposition, in the face of 10,000 dead and wounded. It was no easy victory. We need to remember those things. Having brought home one of the unknown Canadian soldiers from Vimy, the great Canadian victory of the First World War, I think will help to embed Vimy, embed Canadians' military service in the consciousness of all Canadians today and we hope in the future."

This has been quite a week for all veterans, a week which will culminate in tomorrow's burial of the Unknown Soldier at the foot of the National War Memorial. Today it feels as if the symbolism of this unknown soldier, a soldier who in a moment of history gave his life, is truly understood. As Nicholas so aptly wrote:

"This unknown soldier
In the lime,
His dreams were his,
His dreams now mine,

Now he is back home from afar
He has no sun, no moon, no star
For he is dead, his dream is gone
Now you and I must carry on

We dream his dream
that war must cease
For him, for us,
our hope is peace"

Ottawa, Canada

Vimy, France

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