KAGAWONG—Members of the public, cenotaph board members, Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, and 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment of Canada took part in the annual service held at the Park Centre on Monday morning. They were there to honour those who had fought in past and present wars.
Service leader Dianne Fraser welcomed everyone to the service which honoured members of the RCAF and, along with Old Mill Heritage Centre curator Rick Nelson, spoke about the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. The Korean War, which broke out in February of 1951, lasted 2.5 years and saw many Canadians killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
2013 is the Year of Korean War Veterans. Canadians who served have been honoured in many ways. Visitors to the Peace Tower in Ottawa can view a monument in their honour. There is also a Korean War monument in Brampton.
Ms. Fraser had recently taken a trip to Europe and shared that she and her husband David had visited the Blooming Trenches of Death where she recalled the poem by John McRae ‘In Flanders Fields.’ “It was very moving,” Ms. Fraser said of seeing the poem written in the author’s handwriting. The poem was either read or sung daily at 8 pm.
As part of the service, wreaths were laid at the front of the room by citizens representing the Government of Canada (Mayor Aus Hunt), Province of Ontario (MP Michael Mantha), Municipality of Billings (Tom Imrie), In Honour of Silver Cross Mothers (Sharon Jackson) Mabel Wyman Green, whose son Fred was killed on January 31, 1944 in Ireland, Royal Canadian Air Force (Peter Clark), Royal Canadian Navy (George Boyd), Royal Canadian Army (Robert Johnson), Merchant Marines (Les Osborne), Peacekeeping Forces (Red Butler), Ontario Provincial Police (OPP Officer Bonnie Coultis), UCCM Anishnaabe Police (Sgt. Mike Patterson), Wikwemikong Tribal Police (Constable Kevin Smith), Royal Canadian Legion (Trevor Wright) and Veterans of Past Wars (Allan Tustian).
Those who laid wreaths were escorted to the front of the hall by members of the 348 Manitoulin Royal Canadian Sea Cadets.
‘In Flanders Fields’ was recited by Maureen Johnson, two songs, Taps and The Lord is My Shepherd, sung by Mary Buie, Chris and Daria Morley, Jim Munro and Victoria Mazzuchin.
A special presentation was made by Peter Fletcher to a representative of the 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment for their years of support and participation in the annual service.
Mr. Nelson, in his address, featured Red Butler who was one of the ‘28 Heroes’ who fought in the Korean War. These 28 fought against 1,000 Korean soldiers. It was a back and forth battle during the first six months, both sides realizing it would end in a draw. Peace talks took place for 2.5 years while the war kept on.
Mr. Butler was wounded during the hand-to-hand combat. He became separated from his fellow soldiers, taking refuge in a foxhole. He was alone in the dark, playing possum, when “boom,” more shots rang out, he recalled. He was still alive. The Armistice was signed December 1953.
The Korean War, noted Mr. Nelson, was known as The Forgotten War with a large majority of people knowing of it only from watching the hit television show MASH. ‘Where is Korea?’ most would ask. The war ended in a stalemate with the border at the 38th Parallel remaining the same even to this day.
Major Peter Clark was also featured during the service as both he and his father Don Freeborn served in different peacekeeping efforts. Mr. Freeborn was on board the plane that bombed the home of Adolf Hitler. Hitler was not in the residence at the time as he was hiding in a bunker.
Mr. Clark took part in many covert operations, has been decorated by Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth and climbed Mount Everest.
Mr. Nelson shared a letter received from former Kagawong resident Heather Newlands Masbou, who has moved with her family to France. She shared that she is minutes from many cemeteries where numerous soldiers are buried. Flanders Fields is next door and Dieppe an hour south. As she visited the sites, she said she wondered if there were any Canadian soldiers buried there. She would take in how beautiful the landscape at Juno Beach is, and recall the poem ‘In Flanders Fields. ‘
“Next year, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War,” noted Mr. Nelson. “Let us remember them today, they did not come home.”
In closing, addressing the veterans, Mr. Nelson said, “Thank you again for your service.”
Following the service everyone was encouraged to go outside to the cenotaph where soil from Juno Beach was sprinkled among the rocks by students from Manitoulin Secondary School. Among them were Jesse Middleton, Andrew Volkes (who participated in the program by reading ‘High Flight,’ written by Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee who was killed December 11, 1941), Mallory Bailey and teacher Amy Heinen.
The program ended with lunch and an invitation to view the military exhibit at the Old Mill Heritage Museum.