Veteran Walter Smith turned 101 in August.
With a little assistance, the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home resident participated in the home’s Service of Remembrance, Nov. 9, during the wreath laying portion.
He is one of two veterans who call the R.K. home; Patrick Gough being the other.
Asked about Remembrance Day following the ceremony, Smith said, for him, “there is a lot to think about … a lot of people.”
Supported on the day by long-time friends Bob Smith and Sheila MacNeil, Smith said he appreciated being able to participate in the service.
“It was very good,” he said.
Bob Smith said Walter, who has been at the R.K. for about six years, “was having a good day” and added, “but, really, he doesn’t have too many bad ones, to tell the truth.”
“He is just a great older gentleman,” MacNeil said, as the trio enjoyed the post-ceremony reception in the dining room at the R.K.
Despite the first, really, chilly temperatures of the season, Nov. 11, a large turnout, once again, gathered around the cenotaph in Chisholm Park, for the Town of Antigonish Remembrance Day ceremony.
The ceremony began with the traditional parade down Main Street, before the speeches and wreath laying portion took place at the park.
Royal Canadian Legion Arras Branch 59 poppy chair John P. MacEachern emceed the ceremony and the first speech was given by Central Nova MP Sean Fraser who began by quoting Brigadier General A. E. Ross.
“After the Battle of Vimy Ridge where, in those few minutes, he said, ‘I’ve witnessed the birth of a nation,’” Fraser said.
“But it’s not one battle or war we can look at to see the sacrifices so many have made. Whether it’s the Frist World War or the Second World War; my own great-uncle – James Duggan from Upper South River – was killed during the Dieppe Raid, the Korean Conflict, or the many peace-keeping missions and more recent missions, like those in Afghanistan, we can recognize sacrifice across generations.”
Fraser talked about “so many” who didn’t come home from the battles and the many who did, but with physical and emotional injuries “that may never heal.”
“There is a war raging inside so many people who come back to our communities, long after their bodies have left the theatre of conflict,” he said.
“Quite frankly, we have a mental illness crisis amongst our forces that we need to do more for. I’m of the view that if we can afford to send our citizens to war, we can afford to take care of them when they come home and this community knows that as well as any.
“But, we have to ask ourselves not only what can the government do, but what can we do, as citizens, to honour the sacrifice so many have made.”
He talked about living up to the values veterans fought for.
“There are things we can do in our communities and if we turn our minds to the values our soldiers fought for; peace, justice and equality, we can realize we don’t have to cross an ocean to fight for those values here at home,” Fraser said.
“I feel safe at home at night with my family but until I know every member of my community is living the freedoms our soldiers fought for, that’s when we’ll have honoured their sacrifice.”
Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey followed Fraser to the mic and he referenced the famous poem, In Flanders Field and the phrase ‘Lest we forget,’ in his speech.
“Lest we forget not only
those who served, but why, and remember that those who served before us have passed the torch as defenders of freedom to those of us who came after them,” Delorey said.
“And to truly honour their service and sacrifice, we must receive the torch thrown to us, to take up the quarrel and prepare to throw it to those who come after us. Then may they sleep soundly in peace, as the poppies grow.”
Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher was also taking about honouring values in her words.
“As we remember those we lost, it’s important to remember the ideals and values that veterans fought and died for; free speech, the right to vote, equality, legal rights, the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly,” she said.
“These are the rights and freedoms we enjoy every day, so let us make sure we not only remember but also take action.”
Boucher concluded by quoting former U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
“‘As we express our great gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them’… so let us live by the words of today for the rest of the year,” she said.
Municipality of the County of Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron talked about the year marking the 100th anniversary of the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.
“Both battles and their impacts are important to remember,” he said. “The men and women who served during that time are no longer with us but their sacrifices must not be forgotten.
“Serving in our armed forces may be different today but what has not changed is the skill, the sacrifice and the bravery of those choosing to serve. Their commitment is as vital today as it as 100 years ago.”