By Michael Riley
The Remembrance Day ceremony in Wilberforce at the cenotaph, next to the municipal offices, attracted dozens of community members on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. Organized by the Wilberforce Royal Canadian Legion branch 624, veterans and residents of Wilberforce and the surrounding area came out to honour our brave men and women in uniform in all military branches, past and present, who have fought for and secured our freedoms. In addition to the veterans and community members, Highlands East Deputy Mayor Cecil Ryall was also present.
One of the organizers, Hilary Klapow, welcomed everyone and signalled the start of the ceremony. Father Ted Morris gave the opening presentation and recited the Veterans’ Prayer. He told those present that Remembrance Day comes with a message, “Lest we forget,” and that the people we’re charged with remembering are our friends and neighbours, who in some cases, gave their lives and their good physical and mental health to fight against tyranny and for our freedom. While we cannot remember all the individuals’ names, we must remember their sacrifice and their pain, as those were personal.
“Remember the wife or the mother getting that dreaded telegram ‘We regret to inform you,’ or the sons and daughters who would never know their father or the potential of each of those people who could no longer contribute to their family, their country or to [humankind] in general. The price we pay for liberty is eternal vigilance. Those who forget the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat them. A bully, whether in the schoolyard or the leader of a nation state, must be confronted because he’ll always demand more. We’re still learning this,” he said.
Brenda Gallant was a new addition to the ceremony this year, and she sang Oh Canada, which was followed by the playing of The Last Post and Reveille, which according to the Canada.ca website on Remembrance Day draws the symbolic association between a soldier’s last duty of “sitting sentry” (death) and his or her “rising” above his/her mortal duties (reveille). Two minutes of silence was then observed by all present.
After the two minutes of silence, Barb Munroe sang Abide with Me.
“Apparently, Abide with Me is a traditional song of the Legion, because I said to them, there are other lovely gospel songs. They said no, Abide with Me is the Legion sponsored song,” she says.
This was followed by the listing of the wreaths that had been laid at the cenotaph; Sovereign, Silver Cross Mother, Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, Municipality of Highlands East, Legion, First World War Vets, World Second World War Vets, Korean War Vets, Hong Kong Vets, Afghanistan Vets, Canadian Forces, Indigenous Veterans, RCMP, OPP, Highlands East Fire Department, Deceased members and Vets, Wilberforce Vets, Canoe FM 100.9, Red Cross, Community Support and the Lion’s Club.
The Act of Remembrance was then read out;
They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We shall remember them
to which the crowd replied;
We shall remember them.
Father Morris delivered the Benediction and the Royal Anthem was then sung by Gallant, who reminded everyone to remember to sing “King” [for the new King Charles III] instead of “Queen,” [for the recently passed Queen Elizabeth II] which drew a few scattered laughs with people, realizing they may have made that mistake out of habit.
Overall, Munroe thought it was a nice turnout to the ceremony, and that the weather was much warmer and more pleasant than last year’s service, which was colder and had snow flurries.
“It’s nice to see the kids come because it doesn’t mean anything to the younger generation. I mean a lot of them don’t even have grandparents, in the services maybe but not in the wars,” she said.
Klapow, along with Debbie Natale, has been helping out Janice Sorensen, the second vice president of the Wilberforce Legion, who was arranging the service for the last couple of weeks.
“I thought the ceremony went very well. It was great that the OPP closed off the road during the service. The hot pork lunch in Harcourt [at the Harcourt Community Centre] was great,” she said.
Any donations made at the luncheon went to the Douglas C. Hatch Branch 624 Poppy Fund.
Norman Fowler said that his grandfather and uncle were in the First World War, and his father was a Lt. Cmdr. in the Canadian and the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He said there’s so many stories of veterans here that people don’t hear about, because a lot of them are passing away and their stories are lost forever, or like his father, they just don’t like to talk about their experiences in war.
“It shakes me a bit when I see some people just fluffing it off. One day, one hour, whatever it is. It’s a good service, short and sweet and to the point,” he said.
Fowler was glad to see some kids at the ceremony, some as young as toddlers, to keep the tradition alive and to keep them aware of what Remembrance Day means.
“I don’t know if they do it now, but the Legion used to send one of their members to the schools to explain to them what it’s all about. But it’s better that they’re here though too,” he said. “It’s a good learning experience and keeps them remembering too.”