We remember the past to help us understand our present and our future, more so when we consider the sacrifice Canadian veterans made to ensure freedom.
When Legion past president Dorothy Houghton heard of a candlelight tribute ceremony that started in the Netherlands, she felt it was an important way to keep history alive. Started in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their liberation by Canadian soldiers in the Second World War, Dutch children placed lit candles on the gravestones of these fallen soldiers where they remained lit overnight as a silent tribute.
Since then the ceremony has been practiced in other European countries and in Ponoka at the Forest Home Cemetery. Held Oct. 3, participants from the Legion, the Air Cadets and Ponoka Composite High School students came together on a cold and windy evening to remember.
Just before participants started lighting candles, the sun fell below the clouds and a bright orange and blue sky filled the graveyard. Candles were lit in the field of honour as the sun made its way below the horizon.
As darkness fell, the lonely sound of the trumpet helped everyone take that minute to remember. The Pledge of Remembrance was said and veteran Walt Burchnall stood at full attention.
Rain or shine, the ceremony moves forward because in wartime battle raged on despite weather changes, explained Houghton. She feels this is a way to remind youths of the past.
“This to me is very meaningful to them to go out there and think about this person that is laying there now. They read the name and possibly see the rank he was in and maybe it helps them to think a little bit about the sacrifices that these men and women made so that we do have the country of Canada as we do now,” explained Houghton.
For some, said 2nd Lt. Michelle Comeau of the Air Cadets, it is the youths who will take up the banner and tell veterans’ stories. “Going out there to see the fallen makes it that much more real.”
Warrant Officer 2nd class, Catlin Huseby, intends to continue his career with Canadian forces. “It’s pretty humbling to know that there’s a chance that one day you’ll end up like that. You want the next generation to support you.”
Most of the high school students who attended will travel to Europe for the well known Broncs World Tour, and the ceremony gave them a chance to pause and think of the many stories of Canadian veterans.
“It’s important to stop and think and have at least a minute of silence,” stated Miranda Johnson.
The ceremony includes the Last Post, a minute of silence, Reveille and Lament and a Pledge of Remembrance from the youths and Air Cadets. They then placed two wreaths; one for the Air Cadets and the other represented the students.
Another student, Carly French, feels this step in her history education will help when she travels to Europe. “We get to see what we’ve actually been learning.”
Social studies teacher Ron Labrie feels this is a fitting beginning to the world tour. “I love the ceremony myself. It’s discreet, it’s respectful, it’s subtle but powerful.”
The story that lies underneath the headstone is something he hopes his students will be able to bring back and remember, said Labrie.
The evening closed with light snacks and a chance for veterans, Air Cadets and students to sit together and discuss the past for a bit longer.