Photos of Coffins …

In my last post (The Half-Staff issue …), there was a line in the quote from my friend that alluded to "GW banning coffin photographs." This, of course, referred to the American policy of keeping the media away from planes which carry the remains of soldiers back to the country. Especially sensitive are images of the flag-draped coffins of fallen soldiers. In a similar move, Canada has done much the same thing.

Ottawa fails fallen soldiers, critics say

There is the typical complaint from media about the ban being heavy handed by the government, and it is … there's no real denying that, and Harper doesn't even try, lol. What I find more interesting is that few people are asking why there are bodies flying back to Canada in the first place?

This isn't a criticism of the policy of Afghanistan, its another lecture on protocol. If you travel the countries of Western Europe … Belgium, Holland, France … every so often you stumble across a cemetery of Canadian (or some other nationality's) war dead. There are simple white crosses usually, meticulously tended usually … one such cemetary in Belgium likely contains the remains of Lietenant Colonel John McCrae MD, the Canadian medic who wrote In Flanders Fields, before being killed in action a few days later, only miles from the poppy covered graveyard he wrote about.

The US has a long tradition of bringing every soldier home, even the dead ones, and there is honour in that. But Canada has a long history of burying fallen soldiers essentially where they fall, and there is just as much honour in that. I'm not sure when Canada made the change … when we decided that we should bring home the bodies of our fallen soldiers. I certainly don't want to criticize returning the remains of sons and daughters to their families. But at the end of the day, I can't help but mourn a former tradition. In today's military, Lt Col John McCrae has no field of tiny white crosses to ponder, poppies waving in the wind, in those few stolen seconds before he races off to a death too early. I can't help but mourn that as a loss.


2 Responses

  1. Traditions are overrated imo. Bringing home the bodies a few soldiers is again the least we can do. I can appreciate this being difficult during WW1 and WW2…keep in mind transportation wasnt what it is now either….I found this really….well…”wow”:

    The debate over the flag will take a deeply personal turn this afternoon when the Liberals read into the parliamentary record a letter sent more than two weeks ago by Lincoln Dinning calling for the flag on the Peace Tower to fly at half-mast to honour soldiers who die in the line of duty.

    Mr. Dinning’s son, Corporal Matthew Dinning, was one of four soldiers killed on Saturday in a roadside explosion.

  2. In my humble opinion, limiting the media coverage of dead soldiers arriving in Canada and not putting down the flag in Ottawa (!) were definitely not appropriate things to do.

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