Indoors or out, Islanders remember

Wayne Young
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There's something special about standing in the crisp autumn air to honour the memory of those who fought and died for our freedom.

For years I was privileged to report on our proud veterans and the poignant services that brought them and thousands of Islanders to cenotaphs across the province every Nov. 11.

When I stopped covering the news, I joined my wife and daughters for the annual service of remembrance in our home community - an indoor service attended by hundreds of friends and neighbours but most especially by my late father-in-law who stood proudly among the aging veterans.

I quickly realized that inside or out, the service is equally moving, from the two-minute silence precisely on the eleventh hour and the reading of the names of those who served from the area, to the stirring Last Post and Reveille, recitation of In Flanders Fields, and wreath-laying ceremony.

It's really not the venue - it's the people and sense of community that comes when they gather to say thanks to the men and women who fought and too often died in world wars, as well as those in the military who continue to serve our country in areas of conflict around the world.

For the first time in Summerside this Nov. 11, the Remembrance Day service is scheduled to be held indoors at Credit Union Place. Inclement weather forced organizers to move last year's service from Memorial Park (where it has traditionally been held) to a nearby church.

The service will continue to be held outdoors at the cenotaph in Charlottetown.

All services - indoor or out - will be successful, not because of the locale, but because of the people - ordinary men, women and children who take the time to show their respect and to say a public ‘thank you' to our veterans.

Because sometimes we forget. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois apparently did last week when she chose to place a fleur-de-lis pin in the centre of her poppy. She needed a gentle reminder that the blood-red poppy is a symbol of remembrance in Canada and that it should not be defaced in any way. She apologized and removed the emblem from her poppy, which she proudly wears along with millions of Canadians in the days leading up to Nov. 11.

Much more disturbing was the recent desecration by a mob in Libya of dozens of headstones of soldiers who fought and died there during the Second World War. One of the stones marked the grave of Canadian soldier Flying Officer Martin Northmore, a 21-year-old from Toronto who was killed fighting in North Africa in 1943. It has been reported that Northmore received his wings and commission at Summerside and took a navigation course in Charlottetown before going overseas in 1942.

The senseless vandalism, captured on video and posted on YouTube, was said to be in retaliation to the recent burning of the Qu'ran by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. In an apology, the Libyan government said the anger of the few who desecrated the graveyard does not reflect public opinion in that country because Islam calls for respect for all religions.

It's another reminder that, despite the sacrifice made by so many Canadians and fellow Islanders who fought for our freedom, the world remains a very dangerous place. We must never take our freedom for granted, or imagine we'll never have to fight to defend it again.

When we come together on Nov. 11, we do so as a community with a shared sense of purpose. Where we do that - indoors or out - makes little difference.

We assemble to give thanks. And remember. Always.

Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.


Organizations: Holland College, Credit Union Place

Geographic location: Summerside, Memorial Park, Charlottetown Quebec Canada Libya Toronto North Africa U.S. Afghanistan

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