By David F. Rooney
Hundreds of Revelstokians gathered under a crisp late-autumn sky on Monday, November 11, to remember the soldiers, sailors and fliers who not only served during two world wars but paid with their lives in defence of Canada.
61,000 Canadians died in the nightmarish trenches of the First World War. In te Second World War, 42,000 died.
This year’s ceremony was, for some members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 46, a bittersweet ceremony. The number of Legionnaires who paraded down First Street West to the cenotaph was greatly reduced from past Remembrance Days.
“We’ve lost a lot of members in the past year or two,” John Opra said after the ceremony. “I can’t give you an accurate number but it’s quite a few.”
One of those who passed on this year was Branch 46 Chaplain Marlene MacQuarrie. She was mentioned a number of times by Mayor David Raven and Branch 46 President Todd Driediger. Certainly, she was present in spirit, if not in form.
The passing on of those men and women who survived the two great conflicts of the last century makes it more difficult to keep the Remembrance Day focus on the sacrifices of our men and women in military uniform. Our police officers and firefighters are sometimes lumped in with the memory of our dead soldiers, seamen and airmen. And though they play important and honoured roles in our society this day is not for them. It is for our fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles and cousins who served in Europe and Asia and who died there by the thousands.
And so Revelstokians gathered at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month to observe a moment of silence and to mark the sacrifice and honour of so many.
Perhaps it is best to let John Opra have the final say on this day.
John Opra recited the iconic Ode of Remembrance, written by English poet Laurence Binyon in 1914 as part of his larger poem, For the Fallen:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.