KAGAWONG—This year’s Remembrance Day service, in addition to the traditional laying of wreaths to recognize veterans who served in past wars, was a time to commemorate several anniversaries: among them being the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the liberation of Holland, dropping of the first atomic bomb, surrender of Japan, death of Adolf Hitler and the liberation of concentration camps.

Service leader Dianne Fraser, member of the Kagawong Cenotaph Board, welcomed everyone following a surprise performance by piper Rebecca McDonald, who escorted board chair Peter Fletcher and Ms. Fraser to the front of the room at the Park Centre.

Also in attendance, as in past years, were members of the 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment of Canada based in Sudbury who laid a wreath at the Cenotaph outside the Park Centre following the service.

Wreaths sit beneath a banner at the Kagawong Remembrance  services. photo by Sharon Jackson
Wreaths sit beneath a banner at the Kagawong Remembrance
services. photo by Sharon Jackson

After the singing of O Canada and Men O’ the North (written by Harry Pearse), sung by Mary Buie, Susie DeKuyper, Peter Gordon and Jim Munro accompanied by Donna Beam on piano, was the laying of wreaths.

Wreath layers were escorted to the front of the room by members of the #384 Manitoulin Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. The poppy laden wreaths were proudly carried and laid by the following: Government of Canada Mayor Austin Hunt, Province of Ontario Councillor Tom Imrie, Municipality of Billings Deputy Mayor Sharon Alkenbrack, Honour of the Silver Cross Mothers Sharon Jackson, Royal Canadian Navy Peter Fletcher, Canadian Army Robert Johnson, Royal Canadian Air Force Les Osborne, Merchant Marines Fern Chamberland, Peace Keeping Forces Red Butler, Ontario Provincial Police Sgt Lovell, UCCM Anishnaabe Police Officer Mike Patterson, Wikwemikong Tribal Police Officer Patterson, Royal Canadian Legion Beverly Wright, and lastly Veterans of Past Wars Dennis Blake.

2015 also marks the 100th anniversary of the poem ‘In Flanders Fields,’ which was penned by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea MD (1872-1918) at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 during the second battle of Ypres Belgium, and recited by Maureen Johnson.

Two minutes of silence was observed during the morning service as well as playing of The Last Post and Reveille. Sea Cadet Miranda Mackay read ‘We Shall Keep the Faith’ (by Moina Michael November 1918) and Doug Alkenbrack read ‘The Price of Freedom’ written by Garry A. Riebertz, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Old Mill Heritage Museum curator Rick Nelson’s presentation included an invitation for guests to visit the museum to view the extensive display of military artifacts on loan by collector Christian Shoebridge.

2015 is a year to recognize several notable anniversaries one of which is the end of WWII. “In Kagawong, when word got out that the war was over,” shared Mr. Nelson, “the celebration took place in front of the old Post Office.”

“An impromptu parade began at the school house with children working their way down to the lower village. Prayers were said, cadets were there, flags were flying everywhere, car horns honking and people hooting and howling to celebrate the end of the war,” shared Mr. Nelson.

“And yet,” stated Mr. Nelson, “along with all the celebrations was the reality that when the war ended, 55 million lives were lost at the hand of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.” The cost of the war was roughly $1.6 trillion. “One would think,” stated Mr. Nelson, “with statistics such as these it would keep the world out of future wars: no such luck.”

“This year, 2015,” noted Mr. Nelson, “marks yet another milestone: it’s the 15th anniversary of the 21st century. How’s it looking so far?” he asked. “Let’s imagine, if we could, leaving the safe confines of the Park Centre and view the world from up above—this is some of what we might see.”

Mr. Nelson spoke about the tragedy of 9/11 which took place in 2001. The way we travel and move about the world has changed in so many ways in regards to border security and safety.

“I think we owe our veterans an apology for not doing a better job maintaining the peace you worked so hard for,” Mr. Nelson said as he addressed the veterans in attendance. “It’s an absolute mess out there,” shared Mr. Nelson as he spoke of the recent events over the skies of Egypt reminding us that the world remains a dangerous place.”

The 21st century Nazis and ISIS killing people and posting these executions over the Internet as recruitment videos. It is their devotion, shared Mr. Nelson, “to an ancient medieval religion that is forcing millions of refugees in the Middle East to flee for their lives; evicted from their homes because they might practice a different faith. One of the first countries the refugees tried to reach was Germany. Germany—who would have thought? More than 70 years ago people were being forced on to trains and sent to Germany to be put to death.”

“Today refugees fleeing to Germany by train are finding freedom. When I hear Germany was rescuing those refugees,” said Mr. Nelson, “I thought of our veterans who 70 years ago planted the seeds of freedom in that country. Canada is following in Germany’s footsteps as is Manitoulin Island, which has already committed to finding homes for refugees—the first families could arrive within the next four months.”

“Thank you for coming today,” concluded Mr. Nelson. “This Remembrance Day let us think again about the veterans who 70 years ago and beyond laid their lives on the line so we might have a better garden of a world.”

“The world,” commented Mr. Nelson, “is what we make of it and right now the garden has a lot of weeds that need pulling. Maybe our new prime minister will have some ideas on how to do that. He’s young and comes into office with lots of hope. I hope he and his generation of future leaders will find us some peace.”

“To all of you who served and to those who continue to serve, we thank you so very much.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: At the time this article was written, the terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the deaths of 129 people in Paris, France at the hands of suicide bombers. Along with the dead, several hundred were wounded. News reports continue to provide speculation in regards to the reason for the attack.