Reflections: Ponoka is dedicated to the valour and memory of our soldiers

Taking time to remember past veterans and those killed in action, in this week’s Reflections.

By Mike Rainone for the News

As far back as the earliest settlement of Ponoka and the surrounding districts hundreds of thousands of men and women and sons and daughters have bravely and unselfishly left their homes, and farms, and businesses, and families to serve our nation as members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The overwhelming efforts, courage, and supreme sacrifices of our war veterans go all the way back more than a century with those who fought during the Boer War, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and in countless other support and peace keeping rolls at home and throughout the world in a long-standing and proud tradition that will thrive on all fronts to this day and long into the future of our nation and the world.

Right from the beginning of the rapid growth and countless challenges and successes of the urban and rural communities of Ponoka each and every generation of citizens have always avidly honoured and supported our war veterans and their comrades and families in so many caring and wonderful ways throughout the year. A milestone event in these efforts came on May 4, 1928 when the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 Ponoka received its first charter, with the initial always very enthusiastic meetings being held at the Town Hall on the corner of 50th Avenue and 51st Street, and later at the St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Peter MacDonald’s office in the Community Rest Room, the County Office, and at the Elks Hall Club rooms on Chipman Avenue.

The very first Nov. 11 Armistice Day ceremonies were held at the original Cross of Honour in the Forest Home Cemetery just west of Ponoka, and then during the years that it was held at the popular Elks Hall the Legion would also host so many other activities in support of their rapidly growing club and district war veterans. It was also there during the war years that the community would gather with families and friends to put together the hundreds of so much looked forward to Red Cross Care boxes and letters from home that were faithfully sent to our men and women who were serving in all facets of the armed forces both here in Canada and overseas in the horrific corridors of war. Whatever the event, the hope and prayers of everyone in the town and districts were always extended to our soldiers for their safety and eventual return home. The flags of our nation flew then in all their glory and in honour of the bravery and service of our soldiers, just like they do now along Highway 2A Ponoka next to the Lions Centennial Park and throughout our community.

In 1939 the Ponoka Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary was formed, and together with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 Ponoka they would proudly celebrate the opening of their first humble but official club house on 53rd Avenue in 1946. With the overwhelming hard work, dedication, and keen support of so many others over the years they would make countless additions and renovations to that first facility and their Associate and honorary membership would grow to over 250 through the 1950s and sixties. Along the way the Ponoka Legion have organized and hosted ongoing annual events such as their Poppy campaign, 500 Club draw, Vimy Night, Community Appreciation and Awards Nights, and so much more. They have also faithfully supported the local Air Cadet Squadron and a Branch #66 Pipe Band, as well as donating to many worthwhile projects in and around the community and at the Alberta Hospital. On June 22, 1961 a community Cenotaph was opened at the north end of the Kinsmen Park on 46th Avenue, which would play host to the often chilly but traditional November 11th tribute until the new memorial was erected at the present Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 building along Highway 2A.

The 2017 Remembrance Day ceremonies will be held on Saturday, Nov. 11, with the annual parade of Legion members, Air Cadets, Mounties, the Edmonton Transit Pipe Band, celebrities and guests forming at the ATCO building at 10:15 a.m. At about 10:45 a.m. the procession will march to the Legion Branch #66 where the program and laying of the wreaths will take place, followed by a light lunch and some quality social time. Everyone is welcome to attend the annual ceremony, and then stay for a while and browse through the friendly clubrooms and check out the Wall of Fame photos, mementoes, and memories that will forever honour the over the 800 veterans from Ponoka and districts that have served and those that continue to serve in our Armed forces, and who we must never forget.

Thanks for buying a Poppy in their honour.

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