It is Remembrance Day here in Canada and Veterans Day in the US. Its hard to know how to acknowledge this occasion in the blogging world, but we must try.
I guess remembering is the thing. Last year, I was walking in Parc Outremont in Montreal. And I noticed a war memorial there which contained the name “A P McCraken. A relative? I wondered, and looked him up on the Canadian Virtual War memorial site. No mention. “What, I wondered, “if they got his name wrong, and sure enough there was an entry for “A P McCracken.
I send this message to the deputy minister in charge of war memorials:
Dear Mr. Stagg,
I am writing to request your assistance.
Recently, I noticed that the War Memorial at Parc Outremont in Montreal shows a misspelling of the name of one of the people it was designed to memorialize. The memorial lists “A P McCraken as one of the airmen who died serving in Europe during World War II. His name ought to be spelled “A P McCracken. (I include below the relevant clipping from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial Site.)
It is, of course, unusually sad that someone who has given his life for his country ought to be misrepresented in this way. I am writing to ask what measures your office might take to remedy the situation. I am happy to make a financial contribution to help defray the costs of restoration.
I received this note from a representative of the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs in response
Regarding the war memorial at Parc Outremont, VAC [Veteran Affairs Canada] is not in guardianship of this monument and therefore, can undertake no remedial action on the plaque. The town of Outremont or the city of Montréal have the responsibility of this memorial and plaque, and therefore, your concerns should be directed to them.
I remembered living in Boston, downtown, several years before. Within a half-mile, one can find memorials for all the American military engagements. It is a stunning and sobering recitation of how often the US has gone to war and how dearly it has paid the price. I am guessing that if someone were to find a misspelling on one of these plaques, the matter would be put right with military efficiency and a minimum of bureaucratic dodge and weave.
These days, we are encouraged to have our doubts about the nation state as a useful way of organizing human affairs. But as long this is the “unit of analysis, let us honor those who die for it (and beyond). It is impossible to say what we owe them. We remember.