My Fellow Citizens and Residents,
This Sunday, November 13th, 2016, St. Kitts and Nevis will join with the other 51 countries in the Commonwealth in commemorating the National Day of Remembrance for the Great Wars of 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945.
We will hold an inter-denominational religious service and military parade, starting 8:00am at the Cenotaph in Fortlands. This event will include participation by the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force, the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, other uniformed bodies, schools and civic organizations, and the public are of course invited to attend.
Every Remembrance Sunday, we reflect on the millions of soldiers who were killed and the millions more who were wounded in the First World War from 1914 to 1918 and the Second World War from 1939 to 1945.
Remembrance Sunday is the ultimate act of loyalty and tribute to our forebears who demonstrated service and devotion par excellence in the face of overwhelming and unimaginable conflicts and adversity.
That is why we observe a two-minute silence at 11:00am every Remembrance Day, November 11th, and on Remembrance Sunday, to coincide with the exact time when World War I ended in 1918: at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.
Consider this: more than nine million soldiers were killed, more than 21 million were wounded, and more than five million civilians died from disease, starvation and chemical weapon exposure during World War I alone. Approximately 60 million people died in World War II, 40 million of them were civilians including millions of Jews who were killed by the Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust (1933 to 1945).
The names of 20 men from the Presidency of St. Kitts-Nevis and Anguilla who died serving in World War I are perpetually inscribed at the Cenotaph, as are the names of six men from the Presidency who died serving in World War II.
Every year, we wear artificial poppies near our hearts in solemn memory of these fallen veterans. The symbolism of the poppy flower dates back to the First World War when a Canadian soldier and military doctor, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, wrote a poem titled In Flanders Fields. He wrote it during the second battle of Ypres, which is a town in the Flanders region of Belgium. The last five lines of his poem read:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lest we forget, this poem is a powerful reminder that responsibility is the price of freedom. To us, from failing hands they threw the torch. The torch represents our future and our freedoms. So as we work each day on the important task of nation building, let us stay true to the ideals – and build upon the legacy – of our heroes and leaders who put country above themselves. Let us remember that sustained progress rests on each and every one of us finding our purpose and being a responsible and productive citizen of our community and the world.