They gave up their tomorrow so we could have today …
A poem by Florence Noble captured a spirit of quiet reflection that marked Thursday’s Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Royal Canadian Legion hall. It was attended by 36 masked people, including a handful of veterans, bright red poppies dotting their lapels.
Noble was a member of the Swift Current-based 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment of the 14th Canadian Hussars; she worked in equipment and forces supply.
The Rev. Michele Rowe, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 75 padre and Maple Creek United Church minister, selected Noble’s poem for her reflection on the day’s significance. It was read by Pastor Carolyn Conarroe, standing in for Rev. Rowe, who was unable to attend.
“I want to share a poem that Jack Hockley gave to me and thank him for the inspiration,” said Pastor Conarroe, reading the Rev. Rowe’s words.
She added that the 8th RECCE, which engaged in the Battle of Normandy in 1944, was deactivated in Swift Current on December 15, 1945, but members stayed in touch with one another.
“At one such gathering, Florence shared with them this poem, which then passed from member to member and beyond.”
It was the second year in a row that the Legion held a private indoors ceremony, sparing attendees from a biting wind and near-freezing temperatures. At the door, checks were made for vaccine passports. Inside, at the back, was the replica of a Cenotaph, used for laying of wreaths, and a table of a fallen soldier, replete with symbols of remembrance for brothers and sisters in arms.
Among those in attendance were Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor of Maple Creek, Wayne Burton, deputy fire chief at the Maple Creek Fire Department, and Ross Pollock, from Diamond C Cowboy Church. At the back was an RCMP officer, Const.
The veterans present included: Lester Nickel (Navy); Ollie Ellingson (Army, World War II); Raymond Roy (Army); George Knowles (Army); and Jerry Federowich (RCMP).
The ceremony began with the procession of a Colour Party, under the direction of sergeant-at-arms Nickel, Legion vice-president, presently acting president. The skirl of a bagpipe played by Kristi Yarshenko announced the flag-bearing group’s appearance through the front doors.
Making up the party were Legion members Walter Arnold, zone commander, and Norman Kimber, secretary; four correctional officers, Tia Getz, Carrie Phillips, Rebecca Jones, and Juli Schultz; and two RCMP officers in Red Serge, Constables Adam Helgeson and Marc-Antoine Huard, who formed the Honour Guard.
After the playing of “O Canada”, Nickel welcomed Remembrance Day service guests and announced that 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the poppy.
“Today we are gathered to honour those who have served our country and gave the ultimate sacrifice, in times of war and also in times of peace,” he said.
“Let their sacrifice and the freedom that it gave us move us to always endeavour to remember them, lest we forget.”
Nickel pointed out the table of a fallen soldier, and explained the symbolism lying behind the way it was decorated, from the white tablecloth and unlit candle, to the single red rose and inverted wine glass (see separate piece).
In a “gathering prayer”, Pastor Conarroe, a United Church minister, read the words that Rev. Rowe would have uttered.
“… we gather to remember and to lament; to remember the war that was to end all wars, and to lament the terrible and tragic loss of life in the wars and conflicts that followed it.”
The prayer expressed gratitude for those who, throughout the course of history, have made the supreme sacrifice while working for the well-being and security of others, and it acknowledged with regret the loss of life from human conflict. It asked that hearts and minds be opened and “re-wired” for peace and justice so that war might never happen again.
“We pray for all who are in bereavement, disability, and pain, and all who continue to suffer the consequences of oppression, war, and terror in our world. May we work together to offer them healing, hope, and justice.
“Watch over, we pray, the members of our Canadian Armed Forces, who serve and defend our nation here and round the world. Guide them and protect them, O God, and strengthen their families and loved ones. We pray as well for Canada and for its leaders and peoples.
“We are humbled by the freedoms and responsibilities we have, and must never take for granted. May we never forget the courage and loyalty of those who paved the way, nor our responsibility to honour their sacrifice by working for a world of justice, generosity, and peace.
“Give us wisdom to learn from the past, and strength to face the future. Help us to remember the costs of war and to work together for a better, and brighter, tomorrow: for the whole human family, and for the generations to come.”
After reading Noble’s poem, Pastor Conarroe lit three candles, pausing after each lighting to explain its significance.
“We acknowledge the cost paid by those who served in war, conflict and peacekeeping and we are grateful for the debt we owe,” she said after lighting the Candle of Thanksgiving. “We commit to thanks-living in response to their sacrifice.”
Of the Candle of Peace, she said: “May our leaders at all levels of government act to build a more peaceful world for our children and grandchildren. May our homes, businesses, schools, legions, and churches be sanctuaries of safety for all who enter.”
After lighting the Candle of Hope, she said: “May a dream of peace, love, and justice burn in the hearts of all peoples. Let not another of God’s beloved ones be sent to war and let this day of hope begin with us.”
What followed were The Last Post – the traditional wail of a bugle filling the hall from a sound system operated by Bill Palmer – the silence, and Reveille. Then came the laying of the wreaths.
Among those laying wreaths were the Government of Canada, Motherhood of Canada, Province of Saskatchewan, Town of Maple Creek, Royal Canadian Legion, RCMP, Corrections Canada, and Maple Creek Fire Department. There were also church groups – Knights of Columbus, and Diamond C. Cowboy Church – businesses, organizations, and families.
Frequently, Legion members laid wreaths on behalf of those not present at the ceremony.
Afterwards, people were invited to read a “Commitment to Remember”, which was followed by “God Save the Queen” and the words of “Act of Remembrance” read by Pastor Conarroe: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning; we will remember them.”
The Colour Party then reassembled and exited the hall, with Yarshenko leading the way, signalling the end of the service.
Later, wreaths were loaded on to a vehicle and laid at the Cenotaph outside the library. Either side of the monument were signs bearing the words “Lest We Forget” and “We Will Remember Them.”
They reflect similar sentiments in Noble’s poem.
“Tonight many families will shed a tear
“In memory of those who cannot be here.
“They gave up their tomorrow so we could have today.”
• The ceremony was live-streamed on the Maple Creek United Church Facebook page. The filming was done by Dale Groves.