Students with the Broncs World Tour at Ponoka Composite High School have been working hard the last two weeks planning the school’s esteemed Remembrance Day ceremony.
“It’s critically important we’re ready for Nov. 8. It’s going to be a bigger deal than usual,” said Ron Labrie, PCHS teacher and Broncs World Tour founder, during the student’s first planning session.
This year the school will host a formal viewing of its Hall of Valor, which focuses on remembrance and commemorates Canadian soldiers.
Etching classroom windows with important war locations and scenes has begun in the hall. All other details of the hall are being kept under wraps. “This is going to kick it off. It’s the beginning of what it will hopefully look like,” explained Labrie.
The school is also going to induct a soldier into the Hall of Valor each year. “Our Hall of Valor inductee this year is Willard Doran, 21, when he died,” said Labrie.
Doran was shot down in 1944 during a bombing in Berlin. Labrie is hoping members of his family will be able to attend the school’s ceremony.
During the student’s first planning session on Oct. 28, they were given a tour of the hall, then it was down to business.
It was agreed the ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m., would begin with O Canada. “It’s a formal ceremony, it’s very important we start with that,” said Labrie.
The students took the significance of the ceremony and its formality seriously. A formal dress code is being set for the students.
Labrie is hoping a veteran from the Royal Canadian Legion will attend the ceremony but recognized it may be an associate member. “There is not enough of them to go around anymore, and that’s a sad statement.
Labrie imposed on the students how precious the veterans and their time is. He told the students that at this year’s candlelight vigil he noticed there were more students than veterans.
The ceremony will also include candles, as it has in the past, although this year some may be battery operated. “We actually had 155 to symbolize the amount of soldiers who died in Afghanistan,” said Labrie, referring to last year.
A musical piece and a presentation on Ontario’s Highway of Heroes will also be included in the ceremony.
“Recognition lists are also something I really love,” said Labrie. The students collect names of soldiers related to or known by students and each day names are read over the intercom.
Remembrance Day is the Broncs World Tour’s first large project of the year and the students involved are taking it seriously.
“I like that our school is famous for this,” said Grade 12 student Kendra Sather. “It’s really important people pay respect to that. Lest we forget, it’s not something that just goes away.”
Another Grade 12 student, Nicole Schuur, who was born in Holland, is not only excited to be involved in the Broncs World Tour but also grateful.
During the Second World War, Schuur’s grandfather was trapped in a house by Nazis, as the Germans were being pushed out of Holland. “The Nazis actually physically pushed them in there. They thought they were going to die,” she said.
However, the house was raided instead. “They got lucky I guess. My family wouldn’t have existed.”
Schuur’s other grandfather fought for Holland after the war and her uncle fought in Afghanistan.
In 1974 Schuur’s father was almost recruited for Holland’s military. “In Holland, at a young age, men are recruited for the military. He didn’t have to because he had a farm,” Schuur explained.
Schuur and her parents have attended the school’s Remembrance Day ceremony almost every year. “We really appreciate what he (Labrie) does.”
Schuur will travel to Europe in the new year with her Broncs World Tour classmates to tour soldiers’ gravesites and other significant locations. “I really want the chance to go see these people and be thankful for what they did. Not only for my country but for all of Europe,” she said.