Thousands gathered at the Cenotaph in Charlottetown Sunday to salute the gallant Canadian men and women who took up arms in the defence of freedom and democracy in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.
They paid tribute as well to those who’d served under Canada’s flag on peacekeeping missions around the world.
Beneath clear blue skies they lined downtown streets in clusters several people deep to show their respect and their appreciation for veterans on parade and serving members of the military.
Veterans were greeted with bursts of applause as they marched through the streets en route to the cenotaph and again as they marched off to Branch No. 1 of the Royal Canadian Legion for a day of camaraderie and remembrance.
At the stroke of 11 o'clock, two minutes of silence were observed.
It was a day to reflect on what Canada's veterans had accomplished in time of war. They were the cream of their generation, many still in their teens when their country called.
They had been farmers, fishermen, bank clerks and railway engineers. They were lawyers, doctors, schoolteachers, nurses and men of the cloth.
All put their lives on hold, said good-bye to loved ones, donned a uniform and marched off to war.
Many never returned to thosethey left behind.
On Sunday, as they came together once more, the thoughts of many veterans turned to those comrades who'd paid the ultimate sacrifice and to those who had succumbed to the passage of time.
Eachyear thousands more Canadian veterans join their fallen comrades.
The average age ofSecond World War veterans today is 88. The average age of this country’s Korean War veterans is 80.
In his Remembrance Day message, the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, paid tribute to those who had fought with courage and with honour to regain and secure peace, many of whommade the ultimate sacrifice.
He said it was also a day to recognize the men and women in Canada’s Armed Forces now, both Regular Force and Reserves, for their resolve and their commitment to national defence and international security.
Hiltz called on those present to remember the passage from scripture, Matthew 5.9, that reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
In closing he offered these words.
“May all veterans receive the care and the respect we owe them.”
During Sunday’s service of remembrance the Memorial Cross wreath was laid by Ruth DeCoste. She was joined by her husband, Maurice DeCoste, himself a veteran.
Their son, Capt. James Patrick DeCoste, a member of 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, died near Gračac, Croatia, on 18 Sep 1993. He was serving with the United Nations Protective Force during Operation Joint Endeavor.
The wreath laid by Ruth DeCoste was carried by Cpl. Adam Howatt, a veteran of both Bosnia and Afghanistan.
At the same time, Maurice DeCoste laid a personal wreath in memory of their son James, in memory of Ruth DeCoste’s brother, Maurice Hughes, who died in the final days of the Second World War, and in memory of Maurice DeCoste’s father, Arthur DeCoste, who fought at Vimy Ridge.
Veterans on parade were joined in the laying of wreaths yesterday by representatives of all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces, all three levels of government, the police, various service and community groups, school children and the general public.
Just minutes before the end of Sunday’s service the crowd was shocked to see a veteran on parade fall to the ground. Walter Doucette fell backwards onto the street and was taken to hospital for observation. He suffered no serious injury and was later released.
During the service Laura MacLeod played Last Post and Reveille while Matthew MacLaine played the lament Flowers of The forest.
Members of Royal Canadian Legion Choir recalled the war years through the singing of songs from the period and much-loved hymns.
Following the ceremony, a number of those viewing the parade removed their poppies and placed them at the base of the cenotaph.
Many then ventured to the atrium of the Department of Veterans Affairs to listen to musical selections from the war years performed by the Canada Remembers Chorus and learn more about the pivotal role played by Canadians in the two world wars, Korea and subsequent peacekeeping missions.
Others ventured to Branch No. 1 of the Royal Canadian Legion to say a personal thank-you to our veterans.