Youth and veterans of Ponoka gathered Oct. 2 on a cold, dark and wet evening to remember soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty.
A somber mood filled the air at the Forest Home Cemetery as attendees proceeded to light candles on the gravestones of Ponoka veterans. Anyone watching from afar would see twinkling lights among silhouettes, like stars in the night.
Ponoka’s candlelight ceremony was first inspired by Dutch children in 1995 who placed lit candles on the gravestones of fallen Canadian soldiers. That ceremony commemorated the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian soldiers in the Second World War.
Dorothy Houghton, Legion past president, organized the first of the now annual vigils several years ago. This year, Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) students, Air Cadets and legion members left the comfort of their homes to take part in the ceremony. Houghton says she is proud the ceremony has become a tradition for the Ponoka Legion.
She wants “to make the youths aware of what our service people have done for us and doing for us.”
“Each year there has been more Air Cadets and high school people attending,” Houghton said proudly.
Students from PSC are also part of the Broncs World Tour and they will use this ceremony to kick-off their learning of past world wars, says social studies teacher Ron Labrie. He looks forward to seeing students learn about Ponoka soldiers who died fighting in the First and Second World Wars.
Labrie has also seen growth in students’ interest. “This is the biggest I’ve ever had. We’ve got 32 kids.”
“We’re jam packed…There’s a connection with kids at our school,” he added.
As more students take the class, Labrie finds they pass on their experience to other students. For Grade 12 student, Jenny Massing, the ceremony is an important aspect of Canada’s history. “I think it’s important that all the youth come out to see what happens.”
The cold night also helped accentuate the mood of the ceremony.
“It’s not a happy night,” Massing said. “I also noticed when we did light the candles it did stop raining.”
Students at PSC are gearing up for the trip already and are taking the first module in the course.
The Ponoka Air Cadets appeared to be in full force, which Clinton Rodney, Warrant Officer 2nd Class, feels is important. “Not enough is done to remember those who fought and died for us in the First and Second World War.”
He feels the physical act of lighting the candles and standing in the elements helps his understanding and “sparks more emotion.”
The ceremony included the Last Post, a minute of silence, Reveille and Lament and a Pledge of Remembrance from the youths and Air Cadets and ended after two wreaths were laid, one for the Air Cadets and the other representing PSC students.