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Hitch your wagon to a star

Remembrance ceremonies are attracting crowds in Canada and around the world Wednesday to honour those who died while serving their countries.

Nov. 11 marks the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

In Ottawa, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will attend a ceremony with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean at the National War Memorial in Confederation Square.

This year's Silver Cross mother is Della Marie Morley, whose son, Cpl. Keith Morley, was killed in Afghanistan in 2006 in a suicide bombing.

Morley said she was proud to represent the mothers and families of Canadian soldiers who have given their lives.

"I would like you to think of my son and the young men and women that have given their lives in Afghanistan, but as well as the other wars. I grew up with Remembrance Day a very big part of our lives because my grandparents were part of World War I," Morley told CBC News.

"There are some of Keith's friends in Afghanistan right now, so we also need to think of the people that are over there now doing their job."

More than 100,000 Canadians soldiers have died in various conflicts since 1899, including:

More than 240 in the Boer War.
More than 66,000 in the First World War.
More than 44,000 in the Second World War.
516 in the Korean War.
121 in peacekeeping missions.
133 in Afghanistan.
More than 600,000 Canadian soldiers volunteered to go overseas for the Great War. In addition to those who died, 172,000 were wounded.

Only one Canadian veteran from the First World War is still alive — John Babcock, 109, who was born on an Ontario farm and lives in the United States.

Afghan service
In Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces have already marked the occasion with a traditional Remembrance Day ceremony led by outgoing commander Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Industry Minister Tony Clement and Senator Pamela Wallin attended, as did the loved ones of seven Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan. They joined Kandahar's governor and some military commanders to lay wreaths in remembrance.

MacKay presentd a Canadian Sacrifice Medal — the first awarded in Afghanistan — to Sgt. Vince Adams.

Adams was wounded in 2006 in the Zhari district of the province of Kandahar when his body was pierced by metal that exploded out of a suicide bomb. After a long recovery, Adams returned to Afghanistan this year to finish his tour. Now he is instructing soldiers on ways of detecting and avoiding roadside bombs.

"Soldiers call those the 'forgot-to-duck medal,' not to make light of it," Adams said after the ceremony. "For me, the most important thing is those [memorial] books.... have my friends who didn't get to have the medal. Maybe it sounds cliché, but it's for them that I wear this."

One of those family members who attended the Afghanistan ceremony was Nicole Starker, who lost her husband, Cpl. Michael Starker, in 2008 when he was killed in ambush while on foot patrol.

"It's been a very emotional and very healing experience coming here, being with other families of fallen soliders, and being able to see [Kandahar Air Field], to smell it, to be where he was," she said. "As a wife, that is a side of your husband that you don't get to know."

European ceremonies
In England, the country paused for two minutes to remember the fallen.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip participated in Armistice Day ceremonies at Westminster Abbey.

This year's service marked the first time that no British First World War vet was in attendance. Over the past year, the last three surviving British veterans of the war passed away.

In France, a German leader took part in that country's memorial services for the first time. German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the main remembrance ceremony in Paris. The two leaders laid a wreath at the tomb of France's unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe and symbolically relit the flame above the tomb.

"French-German friendship is sealed with blood," Sarkozy said.


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