Air Cadet Flt. Cpl. Tyrell Griffiths stands guard at the Ponoka Legion during Remembrance Day ceremonies. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Standing room only at Ponoka Legion Remembrance Day ceremony

Strong support for Remembrance Day shown by Ponoka residents.

Standing room only at the Ponoka Legion on Remembrance Day showed that the community’s spirit of remembrance remains strong.

The commemoration began with a special march to the Legion with RCMP officers leading the way, followed by members of the Legion, Ponoka Air Cadets and community groups such as the scouts and guides and more.

Providing the solemn marching music was the Edmonton Transit Pipes and Drums band that has become a staple of the march and the Remembrance Day ceremony.

The Legion’s event is about remembering the past and learning from past mistakes.

“We remain mindful of those who suffered as the result of war or conflict,” explained Chaplain Tim Graff during the benediction to attendees of the standing room only commemoration.

“May God inspire in us a determination to seek peace or justice among the nations, within our communities and within our own homes,” he added.

Former Canadian Armed Forces member, Cpl. Kurt Spelrem, was the guest speaker and he took a few minutes to recount his experiences in Afghanistan. Recounting those memories brought up strong emotions.

“It’s a very emotional day for me as you can understand,” said Spelrem.

“All I know for a fact is, it was more about brotherhood than anything else,” he added of his time in Afghanistan.

It was this brotherhood and the memories of that time that stay with him to this day.

“(For) my friends I lost, friends who will never be the same again, and cherished memories,” said Spelrem with some emotion.

At first, when Spelrem and troops landed in Afghanistan, the situation didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until his crew started to conduct patrols that the reality of the situation showed itself.

The biggest challenge in the patrols was having to deal with IEDs (improvised explosive devices). He recalled one time his troop came upon some wires from an IED.

In that incident he was blown about five feet away after an IED detonated. “Ten minutes later I wake up to people screaming.”

In this particular incident everyone came out relatively unhurt but the mental scares remained for a long time.

He added that his troops saw several gun fights, but those were easier to deal with compared to IEDs. “It’s tough when you never have someone to point that frustration at,” said Spelrem.

Despite these troubles, Spelrem said there were also moments of humour and good memories. He mentioned playing board games such as Stratego and seeing one of his friends, a 300 pound soldier, jump in absolute terror after seeing a camel spider jump out of an air conditioner.

“Things like that just get my heart going and make me happy,” said Spelrem.

The ceremony concluded with a parade to the Legion’s Cenotaph and then a special potluck lunch for attendees. The Pipes and Drums Band played several songs before lunch.

 

There was silence during the playing of The Lament at the Ponoka Legion, which saw standing room only. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Former Canadian Armed Forces member, Cpl. Kurt Spelrem, speaks on Remembrance Day about his experiences serving in Afghanistan. He spoke of tough times but also of times of laughter when it could be had. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

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