The day Germany signed a treaty with the Allied nations of the First World War in 1918 was an historic worldwide event.
Whether known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or the commonly used Remembrance Day, Canadians take part in this national holiday to remember the fallen soldiers who died in service to their country. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month people will commemorate the lives of those people who put themselves in harm’s way, explained Ponoka Legion president Stan Orlesky.
For him it’s a reminder in “understanding what has taken place through tragedy that enables us to have something like Remembrance Day.”
The legion plays a strong role in ensuring veterans are taken care of in the country and that soldiers’ efforts are remembered. Membership at the legion has been changing and although its members are getting older, Orlesky feels confident they will remain strong.
“I have a lot of hope and faith that the legion will continue,” he said.
Many of the members who built the legion are now in their 80s and 90s but advocates and history buffs such as Ron Labrie, the social studies teacher at Ponoka Secondary Campus, are putting the spotlight on past wars.
The poppy as the national symbol of remembrance
The poppy was first used in the United States in 1920 as an inspiration from Lt.-Col. John McCrae, who wrote the poem in May, 1915 for a friend who died in the second Battle of Ypres.
The first stanza is written:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
The movement to wear the poppies became so popular that both Britain and Canada adopted the flower as a national symbol of remembrance. By now members of the legion and the Ladies Auxiliary have made their way to many businesses selling their poppies. And support from the community appears to be strong, many folks can be seen with the poppy pinned on their jackets and shirts.
Remembrance Day ceremony
Members will form up for the parade Nov. 11 at 10:15 at the Cilantro and Chive parking lot. From there the parade will march past the cenotaph at the legion and support usually comes from the Scouts and Guides, the Masons, Air Cadets, politicians, the Ponoka RCMP and the Edmonton City Transit Pipe Band.
“The RCMP are always there in full force,” explained Orlesky.
After the parade, a ceremony will be held in the legion commemorating fallen soldiers. Usually there is standing room only but Orlesky suggests those who are unable to attend, “take two minutes out of your day. Stop and reflect.”
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month Canadians will remember the sacrifices made in the past not only by veterans but also their families. “We always remember the men and women who gave their lives…We forget the children of those men and women. Because they (the veterans) were their heroes.”