Reflecting on a recent trip to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Frank Caputo said two words that came to mind to describe the experience are “gratitude and insignificance.”
“You see sometimes thousands of people or even tens of thousands of names without a grave,” he said. “And here you are, as just a single Canadian standing there, knowing that all these people went before you.”
He added he also felt a “profound sense of gratitude and pride to be Canadian.”
Caputo was part of a group of parliamentarians that took part in a 12-day trip, touring France, Belgium and the Netherlands, earlier this month.
Touring Arres, France, he said he saw numerous Canadian flags, near Vimy Ridge, noting we often don’t see foreign flags flown in Canada.
“The pride that we should have as Canadians, when the birthplace of our nation was there at Vimy Ridge, is profound,” Caputo said. “It’s something that they haven’t forgotten.”
In Ypres, Belgium, the MP laid a wreath on behalf of Canadians and the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo during a memorial service. It is also the home of Menin Gate, a memorial to soldiers killed in the area and whose graves are unknown, many of whom were Canadians.
Caputo found the name of someone who would’ve resided in the riding.
“Just bringing home that personal touch,” he said. “It was so awe inspiring.”
The tour began in France, where the delegation travelled to Vimy Ridge, visiting military cemeteries, and Juno Beach, where numerous Canadian soldiers died during World War I, and witnessed the opening of the Invictus Games in the Hague, the Netherlands, where Prince Harry gave a speech.
MP Alex Ruff for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, was also part of the delegation, and served in Afghanistan. While in France, he and Caputo visited the Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery, which holds the graves of 100 Canadian soldiers who died fighting on Vimy Ridge. Ruff laid flowers to honour the 15th anniversary of six fallen Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
“It was a really somber day,” said Caputo.
The MP was one of five in the delegation that included MP Ruff, who served in the armed forces, Liberal Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, North Island-Powell River NDP MP Rachel Blaney and Rivière-des-Mille-Îles Bloc Québécois MP Luc Desilets.