November 11 started off as cool and cloudy in Central Alberta. At 9:30 sharp the Town of Calmar’s Annual Service of Commemoration started outside the Legion Hall. A Color Party marched to the west side of the building where a tall sculpture hidden under a dark blue cloth, stood guard, waiting for its first official duty. A small parade of guests, young and not-so-young civilians among decorated veterans, Military and Fire department uniforms followed the Canadian flag and its mates, waiving in the cool morning breeze. On this day, Calmar Legion president Bob McKerracher officiated as the Sergeant-at-Arms, while Pete Popowich acted as Legion President.
Outside a tight schedule was adhered to. Calmar Community Baptist Church Reverend Keith Froese solemnly read Bible passages and Eddie Maguire, a British soldier native of Belfast, played the bugle competently adding a nostalgic touch to the formal proceedings. A sweet little girl clad in a pale blue coat distributed music sheets to all present so they could sing along. Finally, Bob McKerracher pulled the blue cloth away and revealed the tall, black marble Calmar Cenotaph.
As Calmar already has a cenotaph located in a lovely park on the West side of town on Highway 39, many were curious as to why Calmar needed a new cenotaph. Sadly, this 50 year old cenotaph standing on town property had reached a point of serious disrepair. Now, the new cenotaph is proudly standing on Legion-owned property and hopefully will survive the next fifty years. Interestingly, the new cenotaph was paid ‘up front’ by the Calmar Legion in anticipation of this Remembrance Day and Legion officials will now continue their dynamic fundraising among the population and Calmar’s business community.
The Calmar Legion Hall was packed with guests quietly waiting for the start of the indoor ceremony. Red serge-clad RCMP officers came to join in the wreath laying. Close to two dozen wreaths were brought to the front on behalf of various groups and individuals, one of them MLA Diana McQueen who was attending a ceremony in her own town of Drayton Valley. Mrs. Ida McKerracher, a founding member of the Town of Calmar, widow of former Mayor and great community champion Neil McKerracher, was escorted to the indoor cenotaph by her sons Bob and Chris McKerracher and her grandson to lay a wreath. Once again, Eddie Maguire’s bugle was heard loud and proud, performing the wartime tunes of Last Post, Lament and Reveille.
The assembled guests sang Onward Christian Soldiers, our Canadian anthem and God Save The Queen. By the front doors, the Memorial Table reminded us of the fallen heroes who could not be with us on this day. During the light lunch served after the ceremony, an impressive slide-show of Canadian military fallen soldiers played on a large screen while guests reminisced, got reacquainted and forged new friendships.
After a Remembrance Day Ceremony attended by more than 1,400 guests at the Leduc Recreation Centre Co-op fieldhouse, several dozen residents and local officials joined a large crowd of military personnel, Leduc Fire Services members and RCMP officers at the Leduc Legion. Delicious food and live music were enjoyed by all. Guests could not ignore the Memorial Table by the front doors. The festivities continued until past eight o’clock, with the lively music provided by the legion’s favorite DJ.
For the first time in the history of New Sarepta, a Remembrance Day Luncheon was planned, cooked and served by a small group of residents led by Sharon Smith, dynamic community supporter and longtime resident of Leduc County. The luncheon’s tickets were sold to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that helps Canadian Armed Forces members, regular force members or reservists who have been wounded or injured in their service to Canada. A delicious stew was served –thank you for all your work, Sheryl Stewart and helpers. A large variety of top grade pastries was lovingly prepared and donated by Edna Wiesenberg. This Luncheon was held in the new Seniors Centre, the bright and spacious new addition to the New-Sarepta Agriplex.
The atmosphere was festive. It was easy to see that guests were happy to have a few hours to celebrate the rich freedoms that our Canadian veterans have created for us through the sacrifice of life, limb and peace of mind. By the number of guests to this first-time event, it is assumed that next year’s Remembrance Day Luncheon in New Sarepta will be a bigger event yet.
On this Remembrance Day 2014, with emotion and pride, Canadians gathered in their communities to celebrate and honor our Veterans, while others chose to remember within their homes and retirement centres. In the workplace, some shared a minute or two of silence, to reflect with gratitude, to honor our Canadian veterans of the past and of today and to lift a silent prayer for those who still today fight for freedom and choice. Without our Canadian Military, days of rejoicing and honoring would not have been possible.
Pictured: Eddie Maguire skillfully played his bugle for the Town of Calmar’s Remembrance Day Ceremony. Photo by Dominique Vrolyk