National Military Cemetery Marks 20th Anniversary

June 25, 2021 - Defence Stories

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The National Military Cemetery stands as a place of reverence marking an important piece of our national heritage

On June 28, 2001, surrounded by dignitaries and brilliant sunshine, then Governor General The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson officiated over the dedication of the National Military Cemetery (NMC) of the Canadian Forces at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa. Canadians across the country watched on television as a full ceremonial guard fired a 21-gun salute, and CF-18 fighter jets executed a flypast in the missing-person formation.

The stirring ceremony was fitting. The intent of the NMC is to honour Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who served the nation with distinction, to give them a final resting place that reflects the respect and gratitude of all Canadians for their service and sacrifice.

Today, 20 years later, the NMC brings together thousands of members who died on active service, or after retiring from the military, and who served honourably and chose to rest among their peers. It is managed in partnership by the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and Beechwood Cemetery. It also houses Commonwealth War Graves Commission burial spaces where 98 (mostly Canadian) Commonwealth veterans of the First World War and 113 veterans of the Second World War were laid to rest.

The NMC has also become a venerated focal point for commemorations that honour the military throughout the year, including Remembrance Day, Dutch Liberation Day, ANZAC Day, and the remembrance of French and Canadian war dead that is held each year by the French community in Canada on the Sunday before November 11. A monument called AMICITIA France-Canada will soon be unveiled at the cemetery to more formally mark the military, cultural and historical connections between our two countries.

But the main focus of the NMC continues to be on making sure it serves the interment wishes of CAF members. To this end, plans are underway to add a columbarium (to contain funerary urns) which will allow the option for members to be interred this way. Also, more walkways and spaces will be added, helping the NMC grow both physically and in stature.

The National Military Cemetery stands as a place of reverence marking an important piece of our national heritage. More importantly, it serves as a tribute to our distinguished military members and a symbol of the deep bond that only military members and their families can know, and that links them forever.

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