By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE — Remembrance Day 2021 looked a little different in Stephenville than in previous years. With the restrictions put in place due to COVID-19, and the poor weather forecasted for the day, the celebration, which would normally be open to the public and take place at the Cenotaph, was hosted at the Stephenville Armory with a smaller number of people able to attend.
Nevertheless, the veterans who fought for freedom were commemorated in a scaled-down event with a powerful message. The ceremony began shortly after 10:30 a.m. with a call to attention from the Sergeant at Arms, Chris MacDonald.
Four members of the Royal Canadian Legion – Riley Kendall, Sherry Jones, Gary Jesso, and Louis White – entered carrying the Canadian Flag, the Royal Union Flag, the flag of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Legion Banner, respectively.
The national anthem and The Last Post preceded the two minutes of silence where all stood and bowed their heads in respect for the sacrifices made by our service men and women. The Branch Chaplin also offered a prayer.
“Never let us forget those who paid so terrible a price to ensure that freedom would be our legacy. Help us to be worthy of their sacrifice.”
Perry Young next offered an Indigenous prayer for veterans.
“I came here today to honor the Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and women who fought in our wars. I want to thank them and those that survived, for us to be here to be able to honour them and respect them and be thankful for what they’ve done and the way we are able to live.”
Maurice Hynes, President of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 35 in Stephenville, offered a welcome message to the audience.
“Once again, this year, with the threat of COVID, our ceremony is not exactly as it should be. However, I do know that across this area, men and women are standing somewhere in that moment of silence to pay their respects for the deeds that have been done and are still being done,” said Hynes. “One of the goals of the Legion is to make sure we keep our promise, and that promise is ‘at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.’”
Hynes mentioned that 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy being adopted as the flower of remembrance. The poppy campaign, which began as an idea by Madame Anna Guérin of France, has become an important way to raise money for veterans’ needs and to remember those who have lost their lives fighting for their country. Hynes said this year, he wanted to give a special thank you to the Veteran Canada RC, The Rock NL.
“Thanks to Ron, Sean, Adam, Alvina, and especially Olive for the $1,000 donation to the Poppy Fund,” said Hynes.
Following this, an abridged version of the wreath laying ceremony took place. There were no individual wreaths, but representatives for numerous groups laid wreaths on their behalf.
In lieu of personal wreaths, there were numerous families who requested their loved one be mentioned at the service which Hynes read before the ceremony closed with the playing of the royal anthem.
Hynes said, despite there being a bit of confusion as to the location of the ceremony and who was allowed to attend, it all went very well.
“It was a nice ceremony, very similar to last year,” said Hynes afterwards. “We were given clear direction that they didn’t want large groups going to the cenotaph because we’re still in a pandemic even though our numbers here aren’t that high. We were told no individual wreaths, no marching soldiers, no cadets taking part, so we started to follow all the protocols, and I think the ceremony that we had was dignified and paid respect to those who gave their lives.”
Hynes said it was also important to take the health of those attending into consideration, as the weather was miserable that morning, otherwise the event would have been outside.
“Of the 365 days of the year, we take that one day to pay our respects to the men and the women who’ve served, those who gave their lives in the service of their country. We don’t have a perfect country, but I’ve been to some other places, and we are so fortunate and so lucky to have what we have,” said Hynes. “Those men and women go to another country to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to me, that is the highest calling.”