The Ben Nevis Pipe Band is always a very special part of the Wetaskiwin Remembrance Day ceremonies.
At the Wetaskiwin Remembrance Day Ceremony this year, two closely related themes emerged: the importance of the involvement of young people in remembering the history and valour of our armed forces; and the importance of continuing to defend the freedoms for which our veterans and their comrades fought so that we as a nation may always be worthy of their sacrifice.
City of Wetaskiwin Mayor Bill Elliot thanked all the parents who brought their children to the Remembrance Day Ceremony, then quoted a meaningful bumper-sticker, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a soldier.” He also reminded everyone that there is a model of the ship HMCS Wetaskiwin now on display at the Wetaskiwin and District Heritage Museum.
Michael Klause read the message sent by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of the Government of Canada, then continued by saying that it is our duty to love our country, to uphold the values, and to defend the peace so dearly won by our military.
Mark McFaul, representing the Alberta Government, read a message from our MLA and Minister of Agriculture, Verlyn Olson, then continued to express the need to preserve the freedom and values for which so many died. He said that they deserve the tributes, and that “without their sacrifice our country would be very different.” Listing many of the freedoms we enjoy, including freedom of speech, freedom to practice our religion, freedom of association and others, he expressed gratitude to our armed forces.
County of Wetaskiwin Reeve Garry Dearing spoke about how our rights and freedoms were earned, and about how remarkable it was that our veterans could return home having “retained their humanity in the face of such adversity.” Theirs was a burden borne for our safety and freedom.
Major Barry Shaw of the 1 M.P. Platoon expressed appreciation for Freedom of the City, and thanked those who came to pay respects, then simply said that personal friends had lost their lives in Afghanistan, so this was very emotional for him.
The President of the Ladies' Auxiliary, Branch #86 noted that among the members of the Ladies' Auxiliary helping with the ceremony were one who is 92 and one who is 22, as well as the range of ages between. She read a poem by a high school student which told of bullies, how the intimidated watched, to the world's shame, but Canadian soldiers fought the world's bullies because we Canadians and our soldiers care enough to stop the bullies, so hug a veteran and say, “Thank you.”
The speaker was Bev Gallagher, the President of the Wetaskiwin Branch of the Legion. She spoke of the expectations and feelings of the enlisted men as they headed out in 1914 and in 1939, then connected that with their experiences as revealed through the history of the actual battles commemorated by major war memorials she visited in Europe. She made it real. Then she noted that the brave service personnel who brought such honour to our country were ordinary Canadians doing extraordinary actions. She said, “Our nation will only be as good in the future as the children of today will make it. They can make it good only if they know and understand what has been done for them.” She read a touching and humorous reading about God creating Military Wives and all that they need to be, then closed by thanking the veterans, their wives, and all who kept Canada at peace, giving them honour now and for many more years.
As always, the music provided by the WCHS Choir and Band under Director Paul Sweet was a major contribution to the Remembrance Day program. The solo part sung by Anna Zimmerman was outstanding.
Deacon Leo Farley, from the Roman Catholic Diocese, was very touching, very appropriate in the three prayers.
When the ceremony had concluded, the Ben Nevis Pipe Band again gave a short concert which was very much appreciated by all of us who love the bagpipes.
The Wetaskiwin Drill Hall was originally built to train troops for World War II, is the only army building left on the site of the army training base and has been well maintained through the years. It was packed for the Remembrance Day Ceremonies. Promising “We will remember them,” many, many came “Lest we forget.”