by Lorraine Payette, written November 9, 2013
(MALLLORYTOWN, ONTARIO) On Friday, November 8, piper Larry Fitzpatrick silenced the assembled crowds with a single skirl from his pipes as he led the honour and colour guards in before the stand of dignitaries and school children at Mallorytown’s 14th annual Remembrance Road ceremonies for local service personnel who gave heir lives during World Wars I and II, and in the conflict in Afghanistan.
A slight hint of snow touched the air as occasional flakes drifted down over the crowd.
“I imagine the boys and girls are going to be somewhat cold today,” said Don King, president of Legion Branch 484. “We’ve got some snow coming, but this is what the boys had to go through when they were fighting for our country.” And the vets smiled indulgently, knowing such a day would have been mild and welcoming in comparison to those that so many had had to face.
There was little fidgeting or fussing among the children, for even the youngest seemed to understand the extreme solemnity of this event. Dignitaries in attendance were Legion President Don King; Programme M/C Bud Andress; MPP Steve Clark, Leeds-Grenville; Councillor Wendy Merkley, TLTI; Mayor Roger Haley, Township of Front of Yonge; Anne Bryan; Deputy Zone Commander Ray Gilroy; the Reverend Paul Gordon; and WWII Veteran Charlie Locke of Brockville. Regrets were sent by MP Gord Brown, Leeds-Grenville, who was unable to attend.
A quiet strip of County Road 5, most days Remembrance Road would go unnoticed, the memorial blending into the scenery as people drive past, their minds on other things. But planted there are 19 living maple trees, each with a small white cross at its base, all to grow and prosper as a living testament to those who died.
The embankment is steep and difficult to walk, but that deterred no one as they came out to honour these brave men, all who died so young and before their time.
“Today we’re profiling Sergeant William McKee, who lost his life in World War II,” said Andress. “I have a little surprise that was given to me just this morning. I had a couple of ladies that I used to work with over at the National Park, and one of them has received a bunch of material that has been in safekeeping by one of McKee’s sisters, who has now passed away. We’ll have a tremendous amount of information for Branch 484 and Sergeant McKee’s medals.”
All of these materials were to be presented to the Legion later.
“Most people in Canada have never experienced war, so remembering becomes a challenge for us,” said Mayor Haley. “How do we remember something that we haven’t known? Some of us have had relatives who have served, maybe they shared their stories. But many of them did not. The vast majority of us, especially our young people, have never had a first hand knowledge of war, and that’s a good thing. But we must understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by those who did serve Canada during wars and peace time, and those who are doing the same now. We live in a great country full of choices and freedoms we often take for granted. But we can be sure that the Canadian veterans do not take those things for granted. These brave men and women made extreme sacrifices to defend out rights and freedoms. Some paid the ultimate price. Sixty-six-thousand Canadians died in the First World War, 47,000 more died in the Second World War. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean war, where another 516 Canadians died protecting democracy. And we certainly cannot forget Afghanistan, where we lost 158 more brave Canadians. It has now been twelve years since the struggle began there for North American troops and there were others – Bosnia, Kuwait, Croatia – and we can’t forget those who serve around the world in peace keeping missions. Although many of us cannot actually remember, we all look to those who serve that we might learn and understand, and to thank them for what they gave us – freedom and peace. Throughout the year, not only on November 11, we must all take time to thank our brave men and women who fought for us in the armed forces. We must continue to remember them, and continue to support them.”
“The current Veterans’ Week, from November 5 – 11, pays tribute to all Canadian veterans,” said MPP Steve Clark, Leeds-Grenville, speaking not only for himself but on behalf of MMP Gord Brown. “We are thankful for the dedication of all of Canada’s veterans who have ensured the protection of our country and the promotion of peace around the world. Since Confederation, more than 2.3 million Canadians have served to defend freedom, democracy and the rule of law, with more than 118 thousand having given their lives. Veterans helped build the Canada we know and love. During Veteran’s Week, we are reminded to thank all veterans for their incredible efforts to protect our freedom. That message from our Member of Parliament, Gord Brown.
“For me, Remembrance Road is one of the great traditions of Remembrance week in Leeds-Grenville. I want to commend everyone involved in this special ceremony, which is created between the Mallorytown Legion Branch 484 and the students from the Front of Yonge Elementary School. I think there’s no better way to teach our young people the true meaning of the words ‘Lest We Forget’ than by having them here today.”
As Anne Bryan read “In Flanders Fields”, which was followed by the reading of “The Response” by Zone Commander Don Ewart and the “Act of Remembrance” by Deputy Zone Commander Ray Gilroy, the air was heavy with emotion. Although gone, these fallen men will never be forgotten.
This year’s honourary fallen serviceman was Sergeant William McKee. A wreath was laid in his honour by Don King, president of Legion Branch 484, along with a member of the RCMP while the Front of Yonge Elementary School Choir performed “Standing Strong and True”, a song dedicated to fallen Canadian soldiers and their families, in both song and sign language.
As the crowds departed, more than one poppy was left behind, pinned to a white cross in loving memory of those who died for all of us.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.” (Laurence Binyon (1869-1943))”