Remembrance Day is as important today as it was when it was first declared in 1931, says Gordon Keener, Royal Canadian Legion Br. 139 president.
“It’s the same as it has always been: to remember our fallen comrades who are no longer with us and those who are serving, but it is mainly for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” he says.
Nov. 11 was declared Remembrance Day in 1931 by the federal government to honour the memory of fallen soldiers.
“What has happened in the past affects every facet of our lives today,” says Vivian MacNeil, first vice president of the local legion.
“In Canada, we are lucky that we have all the freedoms that we do because of the men and women who sacrificed their lives to make sure we were free and had democracy,” she says.
“Remembrance Day is not so much about today. Remembrance says it all because we are remembering.”
Keener points to wars in the past as lessons for today.
“The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. It didn’t happen.”
He mentions the Second World War, the Korean War, Afghanistan, and even the Yugoslavian Civil War as all containing keys to preventing war in the future.
“We probably will never see the utopian world in my lifetime, but that is the philosophy we strive for — so we can live in an open, free and democratic society.”
Keener served with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry as a peacekeeper in Cyprus in 1988.
“To my way of thinking, Canada has always been at the forefront of peacekeeping and I think that is Canada’s main role in the world is to lead the way in peace and that should be our goal,” says MacNeil.
While Williams Lake and the Cariboo seem far removed from war, both legion members say it’s important to remember that local men and women have served in the military and that even ordinary Canadians have a role to play.
“We’re representative of everything across Canada and when we show them that we care about what happens to our veterans and what is still happening we are representing the rest of Canada, because we are ordinary Canadians,” says MacNeil.
“It’s to honour the people on the wall,” says Keener, pointing to a wall at the legion where a number of photographs picturing members of the community who have served or are serving hang.
“All young guys. We no longer have any First World War veterans, we have some actual Second World War veterans and now we have veterans from Afghanistan. We have to honour these people and we have to remember those who never came back.”
Keener says there are two ways people can support and remember veterans.
“The first is to support the poppy campaign for the veterans who did survive and to wear them in remembrance of those who have fallen.
“Secondly, is to take part in the Remembrance Day ceremonies because it’s just a couple of hours of your day to partake and participate in remembrance for those who have fallen.”
On Nov. 11, Remembrance Day ceremonies will start at 10 a.m. in the Gibraltar Room and will be followed by a march to the cenotaph at City Hall.
The ceremony at the cenotaph will begin at 10:45 a.m. where numerous community groups will be invited to lay wreaths in the memory of the fallen at the cenotaph.
A minute of silence will be held at 11 a.m.
After the ceremonies, the public is invited to the Royal Canadian Legion, Br. 139 for fellowship and comradeship, says Keener.
“Come down and thank a veteran or share stories of family if they have served or are past members who are no longer with us.”