Friday morning started off with some dark ominous clouds hovering in the sky. Bagpipes drew closer. A crowd gathered, poppies close to their hearts, waiting to remember, to honour and to give thanks.
Veterans Square was surrounded by solemn faces. Bagpiper Michael Joe led the veterans, the RCMP and other honoured guests down Vermilion Avenue. Corey Oerlsmans sounded off his bugle. Chaplain Ray Jarvis spoke…”they were young and straight of limb”… Salutes were made, tears were shed and wreaths were laid.
Two minutes of silence was a small sacrifice for the many Canadians who never came back from war and those who did…some ancestors of those with lowered heads. Stories of great grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers whispered through the air. Some shut their eyes trying to imagine, some shut their eyes trying to picture faces of loved ones gone. The ultimate price of war united the crowd, but it was remembrance that led the day.
One after another, business owners, politicians, and descendants of the brave lay wreaths around the Cenotaph. They were here because of those who enlisted, and those who kept the home fires burning. War was remembered through the peace of one small rural town.
After the annual outside ceremony, the mood changed to one of thankfulness as people shuffled into the Legion hall for lunch. Attendees of the annual service enjoyed sandwiches and refreshments (some with a kick). Legion president Wayne Terepocki, Legion member Bob Paterson, Mayor Randy McLean, Ladies Auxiliary member Charlene Longdo, Legion member Jim Turner, Constable, John Leach, Roya Massoudi, Taylor Robillard and regional director Brad Hope all took a turn at the mike. Massoudi and Robillard recited “In Flanders Fields.”
A letter was read from the Prime Minister by Turner. Harper celebrated the historic re-designation of the word “Royal” at the beginning of the Canadian Armed Forces title.
Mayor McLean did not just thank the heroes of war. He thanked those at home fighting another battle; the fire department, the RCMP, Search and Rescue, Princeton Highway Extrication, the ambulance and COPS. “Let me take you back to the end of June,” stated Mayor McLean. “It is one of my two favourite speaking engagements of the year. I am stepping up on the podium addressing a gymnasium full of unrestrained happiness, joy and expectations. There are the young men graduates dressed in their tuxedos and running shoes and the young women graduates in their caps, gowns and beautiful dresses.”
“Now here I am speaking at my other favourite engagement of the year and I am sorry, but I cannot help, but be deeply affected by the intertwined significance through both of these two momentous commemorations that take place in our community and how if it wasn’t for the sacrifice we honour here today there might not be a graduation day to celebrate. It makes me hope that every one of those grads will someday stop in one of the many war monuments when they travel, it makes me hope that they will read every one of the names on the veterans cairn, it makes me hope that someday some of them will pat a vet on the shoulder and say thank you and listen to his experience if the information is offered.”
Terepocki thanked the community band, the veterans, the community for their show of solidarity, Bob Paterson for leading the poppy campaign and the Ladies Auxiliary for feeding the thankful guests.
Constable John Leach said, “It amazes me the amount of people in the community who show up. It is of the outmost importance that our youth are present. We need to ensure that the youth know about Remembrance Day. I asked my grandfather once, “Why did you go to war?” and I will never forget his reply. “It wasn’t for me.””
Ladies Auxiliary president Charlene Longdo called the day one of “beautiful words with a lovely turn-out.” Longdo handed over a cheque from the Ladies Auxiliary in the amount of $2000 for the Legion. In total, $753 was collected for the poppy drive. Terepocki was quick to point out that, “We would not be able to host this lovely luncheon without the Ladies Auxiliary. The ladies do a lot of work for this and so they are able to donate to us each year.”
Regional Director Brad Hope vowed to make sure his children and grandchildren knew the significance of Remembrance Day. “I would like to make sure that they remember.”
Many attended both the outdoor ceremony and the luncheon inside. Mayor McLean asked that those attending “do more than sing of the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to reevaluate how well we are treating our veterans in the present. I will not allow the opportunity to pass without acknowledging the multitude of Legion members who have never forgotten. They surround this organization, they are the Ladies Auxiliary, the Legion executive, the Legion volunteers, the staff and the auxiliary members who will carry that torch of remembrance forever.”