BY SCOTT BLINKHORN
Over one million Canadians served in the Second World War as part of the Canadian Forces, the merchant marine and other allied forces. In 2014 there were approximately 75,000 veterans remaining, according to Veterans Affairs Canada. It is a war that is quickly exiting living memory.
On Oct. 29, Memory Gardens Funeral Home and Cemetery hosted its 11th annual Remembrance Day ceremony.
“We have over 400 veterans buried here,” said Darcy Campbell, funeral director at Memory Gardens, “This is about a history of honouring, the veterans we have here with us.”
The ceremony began with cemetery officials marking each of the graves of the veterans with a Canadian flag. When the Royal Canadian Legion initially heard about the ceremony they became involved and a tradition was born.
The service is the first of several in Waterloo Region, and for the last few years has been held on the first day of the legion’s poppy campaign, which raises funds to support veterans and their families.
“It’s about remembering the veterans buried here,” said Sandy Pember, Zone C 2 commander of the Royal Canadian Legion.
When asked about the importance of commemorative events not held on Remembrance Day, Pember said, “Not everyone can be off on Nov. 11, and maybe this is a chance for the family of the veterans buried here to visit.”
The ceremony began with a march of legion members belonging to branches across the region. Accompanied by bagpipes, the parade crossed the short distance from the funeral home to a small memorial honouring those who served. The march was made bearing the Canadian flag, the Union Jack, the NATO flag and the United Nations flag, each one honouring Canadians who fought and sacrificed under them.
Kirk Genereux, sergeant-at-arms, Zone C of the Royal Canadian Legion, has been parade marshal for the ceremony for 11 years.
“Mostly it’s because I’ve been around for so long,” Genereux said jokingly. Speaking about what Remembrance Day means to him, he said, “My dad was a veteran. He served five years … when he came home he met his four-year-old daughter.”
Remembrance Day will mark the 98th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which passed from living memory in 2010 after the last known Canadian veteran died. The country still has approximately 9,000 Korean War veterans and 600,000 veterans of the Canadian Forces.
Remembrance Day events at Conestoga will take place Nov. 11 in the atrium on the Doon campus and in the cafeterias at the Waterloo, Cambridge, and Guelph campuses.