In a further effort to indulge their rapacious interest in history, two Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) high school students are immersing themselves in what they are calling a once in a lifetime opportunity — the Broncs World Tour.
For Garrett Hall, Grade 12, and Adam Rowland, Grade 11, it’s their first time with the Broncs World Tour, a program dedicated to researching and honouring veterans of war, with a particular focus on those from the Ponoka area.
The program was founded by PSC social teacher Ron Labrie and each spring he takes the students involved on a tour through Europe to visit cemeteries, memorials, prominent and lesser known locations tied to wars and veterans.
Hall had a friend who participated last year and she, along with the travel opportunity, played a major part in convincing him to join. “(It’s) very exciting actually.”
“I’m pretty excited,” Rowland agreed. “Going with Mr. Labrie, all the knowledge that he has, all the stuff, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Both boys agree the passion Labrie brings to the program is a big part of the reason it’s so impacting on the student’s involved. “I’d much rather go with someone who’s passionate than someone who’s doing it because they have to,” said Rowland. “He’s choosing to do this, he wants to spread remembrance.”
“The fact that he’s dedicating some of his time . . . It’s pretty unbelievable,” Hall added.
Hall had a great great-grandfather, a private with the British Army, who fought at and survived Vimy and Normandy. “He actually ended up getting gassed at one of the battles.”
Rowland’s great grandfather also survived his time in the service of his country.
Along with the chance to explore history, the boys are looking forward to the memories they know they’ll make on the trip as well as experience the places the wars made famous.
“Getting a sense of what they did, especially Vimy, the trenches,” Hall explained.
Although they don’t leave for many months, the boys are prepared for the emotional pressure that will accompany the experience. “It’ll be hard,” said Rowland.
“I think it’s going to be quite powerful,” Hall added, referring to the cemeteries, where hundreds who fought and died for freedom now rest.
Along their journey through the year, as Broncs World Tour students, Hall and Rowland may also have the chance to meet more veterans.
At the Ponoka Legion candlelight vigil Hall met an airplane gunner and says the chance to talk with the man and hear his stories had a strong impact. “Meeting him blew my mind.”
“I think it’s amazing that I got to talk to people that were there first hand. For them it’s not history, it’s their life,” Rowland added.
During their time talking about the Broncs World Tour, the boys often used the word “amazing” to describe what they already realized and expected to learn. To them, the word embodies what the experience will mean to them and how it’ll affect them and their relationship to the world.
“(It’s) something so much bigger than yourself,” Hall explained. He feels getting to experience the tour and honour the veterans is a bigger contribution to the world than anything else he could put forth.
“To all the vets, what can I say? Thank you. There’s nothing more I can say,” said Rowland.
“What you did, we could never repay the sacrifices you and your friends made,” Hall added.