Ceremony at the Sparwood cenotaph. James Snell/The Free Press

The Elk Valley remembers

Hundreds of people gathered throughout the Elk Valley to observe Remembrance Day on Monday.

In Sparwood, the Remembrance Day ceremony began with a service at the Sparwood Senior’s Drop-in Centre. The turnout, which grew to approximately 500 at the cenotaph, was a result of Sparwood’s robust community spirit, stalwart patriotism, and unfailing resistance to inclement weather. Jesse Seiler, a local pastor started the event with a short sermon.

“We remember the forgotten,” said Seiler. “The fallen. The slain. The brave and the cowardly. The leaders. The volunteers. The front lines. The medical aides. The manufacturers. The transporters. The fathers who fought for their family. The mothers who sought to guard their children. We remember the nameless and the captives. Everyone who fought for freedom that they could not have.”

Seiler said that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.

“We are gifted with remembrance, because it means that we are not in the turmoil experienced by previous generations,” he explained. “It means that we can reap the benefits of what has been learned without having to be affected by, and without having to experience, and without having to pause such events again.”

Lest we forget said Seiler in the silent meeting space of the Drop-in Centre.

“Out of those who survived the horrors of the great war, there are no more voices left to remind,” he explained. “As each year passes, we lose more of the wisdom of those who have experienced the horrors of war. We say lest we forget, because we are prone to forget. We forget that there is no glory in war. We forget that the freedom we experience today is anything but free. We forget that we do not have to sacrifice ourselves and our way of living because somebody else already did that for us.”

There is a cost to war, proclaimed Seiler.

“No, I’m not referring to the billions of dollars that go into the manufacturing of wartime weapons, the training, or the building, or the advertising, or the providing of medical aide, or the huge financial costs that have been laid on the losing nations in the past. I’m referring to the cost of paying for freedom with life. The cost of peace paid for by the shedding of blood. King George the 6th said, ‘Without freedom, there can be no enduring peace. And without peace, no enduring freedom.’”

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks spoke to the large crowd that gathered at the cenotaph.

“I speak to you on behalf of the Legion,” he said. “At this time of year, millions of Canadians like you, pay their deep respects to veterans that have fallen in the service of our nation,” said the retired RCMP officer. “They also honour those still serving in the Canadian Forces and the RCMP. Whether they are in areas of conflict, taking part in operations to maintain peace, or serving on humanitarian mission. We remember them individually by wearing a poppy close to our hearts. We remember them collectively on November 11, a solemn and sacred time of remembrance.”

Wilks said that on Remembrance Day, tens of thousands of Canadians come together at the National War Memorial in Ottawa for a televised service and ceremony.

“They also gather at cenotaphs and other locations across the nation for services and commemorations organized by local Legion branches. But wherever we are, we will think about the incredible sacrifices made to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today.”

Wilks said this year’s ceremony has added significance, as it marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“On June 6, 1944 allied forces landed in Normandy and experienced the victory that was essential to ending the war in Europe less than a year later,” he explained. “Twenty nineteen marks the fifth anniversary of the end of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. On the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, we are united in silence for two minutes…and a serene quiet falls over communities as we pause to remember.

Former Canadian Forces Serviceman Charles Stewart, who braved the cold to attend the ceremony, said that young people need to be educated about the importance of the military and other service people in uniform.

“We’ve had so many years of peace that nobody really knows the difference,” he said. “They don’t appreciate the sacrifices that have been made. My dad fought in World War One, and he was one of the men at D-Day. He was a liberator of Holland, and he’s been passed away now for quite a few years. For me it’s a family thing. My daughter is in the military right now. It’s a respect thing. Respect for your country.”

Murray Clow, Commanding Officer of 279 Royal Canadian Air Cadets said that everyone needs to observe the importance of Remembrance Day, not just young people.

“When you see the next generation of young people, even in the school ceremonies, even if they don’t totally understand now, I think sometimes you give them a moment to reflect, and maybe they’ll see someone in the community that they recognize, it’ll spark some interest in what this day is all about,” he explained.”

Is there a chance that Canadians take peace for granted?

“What we learn from history, is that we never learn from history,” said Clow. “I guess there’s always that chance. I hope that it never comes to that, and I don’t think it will on a national basis…taking for granted the freedoms, and not taking the responsibility that comes with it. That’s not just the upcoming generation, it’s everyone.”

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The next generation will remember those who serve. James Snell/The Free Press

Minutes of silence at the Sparwood cenotaph. James Snell/The Free Press

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