Veterans tell war tales at school

Ponoka Elementary School staff and students took their morning classes off Nov. 9 to hold a Remembrance Day ceremony

Cpl. Kurt Spelrem gets emotional while taking about having to protect a girls’ school from being attacked during war.

Ponoka Elementary School staff and students took their morning classes off Nov. 9 to hold a Remembrance Day ceremony, and hear first-hand stories from soldiers and veterans.

Second World War veteran, Comrade Walt Burchnall, spoke to the students about his time in the air force. “I always wanted to be a pilot. I was lucky enough to make it.”

Throughout his military career, Burchnall performed many different tasks, including dropping supplies to the British troop.

Burchnall travelled all over the world with the air force, to places such as England and India.

“I finished my tour the day they dropped the first atom bomb on Japan,” Burchnall told the students.

Five years later he was back in the military and stayed for another 18 and a half years.

“We had a job to do. I was no hero, we just did it,” he explained.

Burchnall said the First World War was meant to be the war to end all wars. Although he’s proud of what he accomplished, Burchnall is not proud of the wars.

“What a waste of resources, more than that, a waste of lives. Now they don’t even know who the enemy is,” said Burchnall. “War is a waste.”

Cpl. Kurt Spelrem also spoke during the ceremony about his time serving. “Things like this is hard for me, it’s very emotional,” he said.

Spelrem told a story of how a platoon he was with was charged with protecting the Dand District Centre in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“Right next to that was a school that taught female students. That school was attacked daily,” said Spelrem. He asked the students of Ponoka Elementary School to try and imagine what it would be like to have soldiers in their school halls daily for protection.

“I’m just trying to impose on you how hard it is for some people to get something as simple as an education,” he explained.

MLA Rod Fox also spoke at the ceremony in an honoring testimony to what he called the forgotten war; the Korean Conflict.

Fox spoke of how, in the battle of Kapyong, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry prevented the recapture of the capital of Seoul. “One platoon was overrun and another platoon was cut off. There was hand-to-hand fighting.”

By dawn the Canadian soldiers were still standing but the Chinese had withdrawn. “That’s the Canadian way. Calm. Devoted. Steady. Resilient. Effective. We must not forget,” said Fox.

The grades 4 and 5 choir graced the ceremony with their renditions of In Flanders Fields and Thank You Soldiers. As the ceremony’s special guests exited the gymnasium all the staff and students, and a few community members sang Let’s All Sing Together.

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