The falling leaves were a poignant reminder of those who fell fighting for their country in conflicts from World War one onwards.
Although I’ve lived in Port Coquitlam (PoCo) for four years, I’d never attended a Remembrance Day parade and ceremony. I felt this had to change and I wanted to experience how my new community remembered those that had died in service for their country. The ceremony at PoCo cenotaph was at 11am following a parade of veterans and other servicemen and women along the main street, Shaughnessy. A cold but dry November 11th maybe bringing out folks that would have stayed at home if the usual rains were around.
The first sight that struck me as I walked along Shaungnhessy was the two fire trucks parked either side of the road, their ladders forming an arch with a large Canadian flag hanging between them. I find there’s a real sense of pride here, a good pride, not a sense of superiority, more like being comfortable with ones identity. People of all ages were gathered to remember those no longer with us and respect those that fought and survived. The distant skirl of the bagpipes grew louder and the pipe band that led the parade came in to sight, a real reminder of the ties that exist between the UK and Canada. A home from home for a Brit like me.
PoCo is a pretty small community of around 53,000 and the number of veterans probably reflected that. It got me thinking that it’s now unlikely that there are survivors that fought in World War One and those that served in World War Two wouldn’t be with us for too long. My father, back in the UK, is 85 and was on active service at the tail end of the second World War. Another 10-20 years and the turbulent first half of the 20th century would be consigned to recorded history, no more personal accounts. That’s why we must remember, why we must have the ritual and the recognition, to remind us that so many people gave their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have today.
The parade and the public gathered around the Cenotaph and at 11am the sound of the Last Post echoed across the Veterans Park. Right on cue, lots of eyes were being wiped. What is it about that call that penetrates so deep in to our very being? As the call filled the air, the falling leaves were a poignant reminder of those who fell fighting for their country in conflicts from World War one onwards. After the Last Post, the names of those killed in action were read out and wreaths were laid. The final formal part of the ceremony took me aback. The Royal Anthem (my national anthem) was sung. No ‘Oh Canada’, now that was truly strange and added to my sense of dual identity. Another touching moment. The ceremony was over and people came to lay their poppies at the foot of the Cenotaph. Young and old, gathered to pay their respects.
I had my own period of reflection. I spent eight years in the Royal Air Force and had never considered myself as a forces veteran until last year when I participated in a US flag retiring ceremony. Today was a reminder that even though I hadn’t been shot at, I’d given a short part of my life to serving my country. I was a veteran. Well, of sorts.