>A Rather Unmemorable Remembrance Day Ceremony

>Yesterday the huppy’s mom called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to the Remembrance Day service. I hadn’t been to one in years, I don’t know why, so I said sure. Part of me wanted to see how the huppy would handle a 21-gun salute, although that same part of me dreaded how Trix would handle it. But I thought it’s only 3 bangs, she’ll probably be fine.

There were two services: one at the Cenotaph and one at the Sleeman Centre. The huppy’s mom wanted to go to the Sleeman Centre because it was inside. I said ok. After going, I wish I’d gone to the Cenotaph. I don’t know what it was, but there was just something wrong with the one at the Sleeman Centre.

Perhaps things started off on the wrong foot because I had stumbled across this little article, in which a veteran was not happy with the whole Sleeman Centre ceremony. But as we headed in, we saw some veterans walking in with us, so I thought “Ok, that’s just one guy’s opinion.”

We sat down, and the masses seemed to flow in and flow in and flow in. It’s good to see so many coming, but they continued to flow as the band played. They made so much conversation that I couldn’t hear the band. This was not a good beginning.

Then, they dimmed the lights and the masses continued to talk. Hellooo? Should there be so much merry chatter at a Remembrance Day service? I could hear the snack bar dispensing fountain drinks. Whaaaat?

Finally, people simmered down after many many shushings. I had hope again. There were cadets doing there thing and laying of wreaths and marching. Then we had 3 different prayers by 3 different ministers. Hmmm. Ok. As long as they get to “In Flanders Fields” and some veterans speak I can live with this.

I’m trying to remember the order of things. I think we had the 21-gun salute and the whole playing of the Last Post and Reveille with the 2 minutes silence. Then everything, I felt, got sidetracked. Instead of hearing from veterans and their actual experience, we got a lot of political talk. First it was a city councilor on behalf of the mayor. At least she sort of made her speech personal. Then it was our MPP. She introduced Dr. William Winegard, an actual veteran! Good!

He talked a bit about losing playmates and friends, and how he appreciated being thanked by random people for doing what he had done. But his speech turned more into telling us that we have to accept what the government wants our military to do, and sometimes that involves peacemaking. He also chastized the government for the dishonourable way in which veterans are treated upon coming home. Ok. I can accept that from a dude who actually fought in the war.

But what killed me was what came next. Our MP, Frank Valeriote, got up and thanked Dr. Winegard for his very moving speech that really brought home the reality of what it was like fighting in the war. Pardon? He hardly talked about his actual experiences fighting in the war. I felt it kind of made Valeriote look like a bit of a fool.

There were poems read and hymns sung and we sang O Canada and God Save the Queen…and then it was over. At no point did we read “In Flanders Fields.” Could we have had less political talk and a little more, um, remembrance?

What also disturbed me was in the middle of the proceedings, a troop of kids started moving around, talking, and I believe they left! They left! In the middle of the ceremony, whoever was in charge of them told them to get up and leave! What does that teach the kids about paying respects to veterans?

So yeah, the whole ceremony left me pretty unimpressed. I came home thinking “Gee, what was that? Was it a Remembrance Day service, or a political opportunity?” Am I the only one who thought this? I would love to know.

But I’m glad I went. I guess it’s better than not going to anything.

As an aside, Trix didn’t seem too phased by the 21-gun salute, and…the poor huppy loudly proclaimed “Yea!” at a few points, making us chuckle. The little huppy’ll have to learn about the moment of silence later.

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