PES students remember with dignity

An elementary gymnasium filled with children usually sounds like chaos and laughter, but on Nov.6 the Ponoka Elementary students sat solemnly while listening to the importance of Remembrance Day from one of Ponoka’s own soldiers.

Jennifer Nicholson

Jennifer Nicholson

By Jasmine Franklin

An elementary gymnasium filled with children usually sounds like chaos and laughter, but on Nov.6 the Ponoka Elementary students sat solemnly while listening to the importance of Remembrance Day from one of Ponoka’s own soldiers.

Master Corp. Marty Gratrix, 28, born in Edmonton but raised in Ponoka gave a heart felt message to students in their Remembrance Day ceremony.

“There are comical superheroes and there are real heroes,” Gratrix said to the students. “These people up on this stage with me are your real heroes — the ones who made sacrifices to do things to help people. They sacrificed to make sure tragedies don’t happen again.”

Along with Gratrix were Ponoka veterans Walter Burchnall, legion service officer; Rose Stoddart, legion colour group member; Gary Palechek, Royal Canadian Legion representative; Const. Riley Bracken, and cadet members.

“Remembrance Day is my favourite day,” Gratrix said. “It became a huge part of my life and every year it becomes more important to me.”

Children sang songs to honor the fallen and those continuing to fight for peace in Afghanistan. Every Friday, the children dress in red to honor soldiers in Afghanistan.

“We wear red not to support war but to support those fighting for peace and freedom,” said emcee Jennifer Nicholson. “The intent is not to glorify war, but honor those who have helped to make Canada peaceful.”

As the children rose to sing “We are Canadians” a sense of pride was built.

“We are Canadians, we are proud and we’re free,” children sang. “Standing together in harmony.”

Gratrix joined the armed forces in 2000 and went on his first peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 2002/2003. He helped with forest fires in British Columbia and various missions. Gratrix had his first combat mission in Afghanistan in 2004, and again in 2008.

“It was a huge eye-opener for me,” Gratrix said. “It really made me appreciate our real heroes.”