No one can really remember when the first veterans banquet was held at the Ponoka Legion but everyone who attends wants to keep the memory of Canadian veterans alive.
Each year the legion hosts a banquet to honour Ponoka’s veterans, says Stan Orlesky, legion president. “It’s to recognize the veterans that are still with us.”
The banquet was held Sept. 28 with dignitaries representing the town and county of Ponoka and the provincial and federal governments. Orlesky enjoys the camaraderie of the night and makes it a point “to show the pride I have in being a Canadian and thanking those people (veterans) for what they did.”
Mayor Larry Henkelman has attended the banquet for many years and enjoys socializing with Ponoka’s veterans and dignitaries. “The biggest thing is to recognize the veterans that have served our country.”
The legion’s members keep busy promoting their goals but he sees them active in the community supporting local projects. Henkelman believes the legion will play an important role for younger veterans who served in Afghanistan.
In place of Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins was former MP Dale Johnston. As legion members across the country get older, Johnston feels recognizing their service to Canada is even more important. He recalls 20 to 30 years ago when the legions were full with members. He mentioned a new date has been added to recognize former wars, July 27 is known as Korean War Veteran’s Day.
Speaking for the province was Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox who is an associate member of the legion. “We’re paying homage to the veterans of our community.”
He feels veterans are an integral part of towns across the country. “Not only do they protect our democracy, they build our communities.”
For county Reeve Gord Svenningsen, attending the banquet has always been a highlight. “I always make it a point to come.”
Although there were farmers who stayed in Canada to cultivate the land during war times, there were also many who took up the challenge to fight in World War II, Svenningsen added.
Many veterans took time to thank a trooper with the Canadian Armed Forces who attended the banquet. This is Connor Longjohn’s second time at the veteran’s banquet and he enjoys the chance to honour past soldiers. The banquet is more than just a night to remember.
“We all thank the veterans. I’d like to thank the families of the veterans,” said Longjohn.
While soldiers fight for Canadians, families stay at home hoping their loved ones return safe and sound. “Family is just as important.”
“It’s an honour to even be here and to wear the uniform… Because of them (veterans) I’m allowed to wear this uniform,” Longjohn said.
The night is also an opportunity to recognize Ponoka veterans who were included in the fifth volume of the Alberta Northwest Territories Command Military Service Recognition Book. Three hundred names have been submitted and eight were inducted this year, said past president, Dorothy Houghton.