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Wednesday, 09 November 2011 07:58

‘Lest We Forget,’ the importance of Remembrance Day services

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By Susan Quinlan
Southern Alberta
On Remembrance Day, Canadians and those in other Commonwealth nations, respectfully acknowledge the contributions made by men and women in our armed forces that have served and continue to serve.
Services will again be held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, they’ll also be held in every town, village and city throughout the nation, “Lest we Forget.”


Granum resident Ed Garrett, 77, a Korean War vet who served in the Royal Canadian Navy, entered the war at just 17 with his mother having given her written permission. Garrett went on to become a radar technician, working on the bridge of the HMCS Crusader, ‘captain’ of the UN Force’s train busters impeding Russian supply trains, as they skirted along the outer edge of the Korean peninsula.

For Garrett, Remembrance Day holds significant weight. He said it’s a day all Canadians need to remember and uphold.

“We have to remember those that gave the greatest sacrifice — their lives,” said Garrett.

Canadians should respect and care for their veterans in other ways as well, Garrett added.

Concerned about recent reports out of Calgary regarding the increasing number of veterans who are becoming homeless there and throughout the nation, Garrett said Canadians must also lend support to service organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion and others that provide assistance to vets. He added government should also consider implementing a plan like that of U.S. President Obama’s, providing tax cuts to businesses that hire vets or their spouses, helping to ensure these individuals don’t find themselves in dire economic straits.

Herb Johnson, 78, of Stavely agreed with Garrett, regarding the importance of Canadians continuing to honour Remembrance Day. Having entered the Korean War at 17, Johnson served as an airborne infantryman.

“There are several reasons … hoping the sacrifices people made were not forgotten. Some see war glamorized on television and in the movies. What we’re trying to impress is that people fought and lost their lives; there was nothing glamorous about it.”

As a Canadian, Johnson said in 1955, he wanted to respond to the South Korean’s plea for help.

“You realize once you get there, there’s nothing you can do on your own; it’s a team effort between many countries. You see people as people, not their differences. Once you commit to helping, you have to make your best effort or you won’t make it through to the end of the day.

“The real reason behind it, you can’t forget why these people died. The dirt, the filth, the smell … but there was a reason for it. They died so others could have freedom. Without freedom, there’s no ensuring peace and there’s no enduring peace without freedom,” stated Johnson, citing words spoken by King George VI in 1939.

“And the second thing for the population in general when watching television today, hearing stories about Afghanistan or Somalia, they’re suffering from people with guns. You need to counter with an army as well. If we can remind people that war is hell, lots have lost their lives, but it’s necessary to keep those factions down ... War is necessary to maintain peace.”

Woody Riley, 86, of Pincher Creek entered the Second World War at 17 as a combat soldier then moved up to become a section leader with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.

At 19, Riley was fighting in Italy and then moved on to Holland with his regiment and was there when the war ended.

“We were in the front lines that night, getting ready to push to the West Coast. All of a sudden, all hell broke loose with plenty of gunfire … The first person that went by was a Dutch civilian. He kept shouting ‘the war is over the war is over.’ Everyone was so excited.”

Riley said that in 1995, he returned to Holland for ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of that country regaining its freedom. Riley said during that visit, the Dutch treated him and other Canadian veterans like royalty, reminding him of the important role the military play.

“It’s important to remind the young people what was done to have what we have today.”

Coleman’s Clarence Morrow, 85, entered the Second World War at 16 and served as a corporal when he was shipped overseas at 17.

“It’s hard on us veterans, but we have to keep the Remembrance Day services going; we know that. We have to keep them going because of what could happen, and we need to recognize that so many gave their lives.”

Morrow said the harsh memories of war never fade, as his regiment went from France into Holland and Belgium, and had just entered Germany when the war drew to a close.

“In Holland, that was a joyful time because the Dutch were so thankful us Canadians came in. They treated us so well and they still remember us. A couple of years ago a Dutch woman came up to me when I was selling poppies in a store. She said ‘I don’t think you want to remember, but I want to thank you for everything you did.’”

For information regarding Remembrance Day services in your town, please contact your local Royal Canadian Legion.


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