As has been the case for many years now, the Ponoka Legion was packed to the brim on Remembrance Day.
Just before the ceremony began a special march was held with Ponoka Legion members and the Ladies Auxiliary taking part. The group was led by the Pipes and Drums of Edmonton Transit marching band and in a show of support, members of the Ponoka RCMP, the Integrated Traffic Unit, the Ponoka Air Cadets and various community groups followed closely behind where they all marched past the Legion’s Cenotaph.
The ceremony brought dignitaries including Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins, Mayor Rick Bonnett and representing the county, Coun. Mark Matejka.
Calkins spoke on remembrance and said the next two years will mark several, significant 100-year anniversaries on specific battles and conflicts during the First World War. He referred to the Battle of Somme where more than one million men were wounded or killed.
“More than 57,000 Commonwealth soldiers become casualties in one day,” said Calkins.
Starting July 1, 1916, the battle ended about four and a half months later.
Calkins pointed out that in 2017 the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9 to 12, 1917) will be commemorated. “The Battle of Vimy Ridge would prove a great success but would come at a great cost.”
He says the legacy of those battles live on today. He referred to the Battle of Passendale, held from July to November 1917 where more than 4,000 Canadians died.
“Canada’s success there added to our nation’s reputation as the best offensive fighting force on the Western Front,” said Calkins.
“The sacrifices and achievements of those who gave so much to peace and freedom are not forgotten.”
There are many Canadians who will not know the risks and dangers faced by soldiers, added Calkins. “Most of us will live in peace though this is not the case for generations who came before us.”
Canadians have much to be thankful for, he said, pointing out that more recently soldiers have died for their country in Afghanistan. “Our lives are shaped by peace and freedoms our veterans have forged before us.”
While the battles and loss of lives become more distant in the memories of people, he commends the work of Ponoka’s youths in continuing on the importance of remembrance. “Lest we forget.”
Calkins spoke on Ponoka Secondary Campus’ Cenotaph project and what that is doing to ensure past soldiers’ stories are being immortalized.
The commemoration included an homily by Legion Chaplain Len Eichler as well as the Last Post by trumpeter Emily Jacobs. Following the Last Post was a moment of silence to honour fallen veterans and then a lone piper played the Lament.
The ceremony was followed by a pot luck lunch with the Pipes and Drums band playing a few numbers for attendees.