It was a Remembrance Day service that gave youth a voice.
Elsa Quin and Cadence Pratt took the stage at Maple Creek Armoury on Friday to provide a dialogue on the theme, “Why Do We Celebrate Remembrance Day?”.
Elsa played the role of someone who initially didn’t see the point in attending the service. “I just don’t get it. It’s a day off, right?” she said. “Why do we make such a fuss?”
Cadence’s character explains the fuss – it is a reminder of the reality and possibility of war, encourages working for peace, commemorates those who fought for freedom and thanks modern-day peacekeepers.
“We pause to remember war in the hopes that we can avoid it happening again.”
The arguments finally persuade Elsa Quin’s character to attend the service.
Later, Cadence’s sister, Kinley, read John McCrae’s famous war poem “In Flanders Fields”, which takes the perspective of fallen soldiers.
“We are the Dead. Short days ago
“We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
“Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
“In Flanders Fields.”
About 100 people attended Royal Canadian Legion Branch #75’s ceremony, which was led by Rev. Michele Rowe, Legion padre.
She said youth had been chosen as a theme, since it was the young who would carry forward the Remembrance Day message.
Several veterans were present, including Lester Nickel, Legion president (Navy); Ollie Ellingson (Army, World War II); Raymond Roy (Army); Barry Franklin; Mark Precious (British Army); and Brent Wareham (Reservist), who recently moved to Maple Creek to run The Salvation Army with his wife, Amber Lea.
Also there were correctional officers, Maple Creek Community Fire Department personnel, and RCMP officers, Marc-Antoine Huard, Josh Lee and Mike Chiarot, who will be moving up from constable to corporal.
The service began with the traditional Colour Party and Parade, directed by sergeant-at-arms George Knowles and headed by bagpiper Kristi Yarshenko.
Carrying the banners were Lester Nickel, Legion president (Canadian flag); Walter Arnold (Royal Canadian Legion flag), and Dale Groves (Métis flag).
Nickel welcomed the gathering, which was followed by a rendition of “O Canada”.
After Elsa and Cadence had completed their back-and-forth exchanges, the Rev. Rowe read a “gathering prayer”, which recalled the past and looked to the future.
“ … on this day of hope in the face of terror, we pray with all our hearts, that our children will study war no more, that our leaders will build bigger tables instead of higher walls, and that love will silence the sounds of hate forever. We pray as those who follow in the name of the Prince of Peace … amen.”
Kinley then recited “In Flanders Fields”, whose last stanza reads:
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
“To you from failing hands we throw
“The torch; be yours to hold it high.
“If ye break faith with us who die
“We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.”
“Today our service has invited the participation of young people,” said Rev. Rowe. “For it is the young that will carry the message of Remembrance Day forward in years to come.
“It is the young who will remember the stories, and in doing so and remembering history will remember that we are all responsible for peacemaking.
“It is the young who will take up the tasks that our Legion members are now fulfilling and we are grateful for everyone coming today, but especially I think for our young people for being with us and standing with us as allies in our memories, and in our hopes and dreams for the future. And so, for them we give thanks and we pledge to you to entrust you with our stories. To entrust you with our memories, for there are many here who still remember what it was like to live through war.
“There are many here who also remember what it was like to come home from war, to transition from act of service. And there are people among us who still serve in the armed forces. There are people among us who still serve in places of danger, whose priority is to keep us safe, who answer those calls in the middle of the night. And we give thanks to them.
“We pray that our young people will be strengthened for they have much on their plate. There is lots to be worried about, but we can entrust to them our future, for they are willing to be brave and say what needs to be said. They are willing to stand up for what is right. They are willing to do what is needed. And so, perhaps we can even dream of a future of peace, where there is no more need to send people into battle or harm’s way. And so, we thank you, the young among us, the young at heart among us, for joining together in this time of service and remembrance.”
Rev. Rowe went on to name sources of the nation’s gratitude, starting with those who have served, and still serve, in the armed forces: The Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force.
“We give thanks for their willingness to go where others dare not go.”
Thanks was also given to family members who made sacrifices so their loved ones could keep watch around the world; to those who grieve the death of someone who served the country; and to those who have seen too much and bear scars in their bodies, minds, hearts and spirits.
“Friends, these whom we have named and so many more, we give thanks to them and remember that they were once young, as we are young. They, giving freely of themselves, served. To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time, to carry their torch and to never ever forget. We will remember them and on this day we give thanks as we remember.”
People were then invited to stand for The Last Post, The Silence and Rouse.
Rev. Rowe then read the Act of Remembrance: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
“Friends, at this time again continuing with the service of young people on this Remembrance Day I would invite members of many of our area’s 4-H clubs to come forward and an offering will be received for our local Legion,” said the Rev. Rowe.
After the offering came the Laying of the Wreaths around the base of a Cenotaph. A huge line-up formed by a wall. Ed Kimber began reading from a long list of those laying wreaths, beginning with the Government of Canada, Motherhood of Canada, Province of Saskatchewan, the Town of Maple Creek, Royal Canadian Legion, RCMP and Corrections Canada.
There were organizations, church groups, service clubs, schools, businesses, families and individuals who laid wreaths.
The service concluded with everyone singing “God Save the King” and the retirement of the Colour Party, with Yarshenko again taking the lead.
Afterwards, wreaths were transported to the Cenotaph outside the library and Town Hall.
Many people then gathered at the Legion Hall for a potluck luncheon. Among those who came were members of Harry Forbes.
It was a time for some to reflect on family members who served in conflict overseas.
The father of the Legion’s Walter Arnold, for instance, fought in D-Day on June 6, 1944, when Allied forces launched the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. The landings on the beaches of Normandy marked the start of a campaign to liberate northwest Europe from Nazi occupation.
Casualties were extremely heavy – more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in those first 24 hours.
Thankfully, Henry Arnold was among the survivors. He also survived the war.
A photograph of the ship that took him back from Europe hangs on a wall in the Maple Creek Legion hall.