Remembrance at the Legion

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

“Let us pause to think reverently of those comrades who by the sea, by the land and in the air lay down their lives for their Sovereign and their Country... May we ever be worthy of the sacrifices they made.”

With those words, Bradford Legion president Mike Giovanetti welcomed guests and veterans to the annual Remembrance Dinner, a dinner that began with toasts to the Queen, to veterans and the fallen, and a minute of silence.

The evening was not just a salute to those who have served their country, but also a celebration of the links between the past and the future – between veterans, legionnaires and local youth.

Newmarket Air Cadets Squadron 94, and Sea Cadets “Patriot” helped serve the dinner. 

Holy Trinity Catholic High School Students shared their experiences at Vimy Ridge, attending the 100th anniversary of World War I battle earlier this year.

Twenty-four Holy Trinity students, accompanied by 4 teachers, were among the 15,000 Canadian students touring the battlefields and cemeteries of Europe and attending the Vimy memorial, for the anniversary.

The students thanked the Legion for helping to make possible a trip that broadened their understanding of World War I and the sacrifices that were made. As one student noted, “It didn't really go through our heads how many we lost, until we were standing in the cemetery and saw all the headstones.”

As a thank-you, the high school has pledged $1000 for the Legion's Raise the Roof Campaign.

Lt. Col. Ferguson Mobbs spoke of the importance of the Cadet program, in building leadership and providing opportunities for Youth, including plans for a new “Orville Hand” Air Cadet Squadron in Bradford, which will start up next year.

The evening was emceed by Doug White, and included comments from Mayor Rob Keffer, Provincial candidate Caroline Mulroney, representing MPP Julia Munro; and MP for York Simcoe, Peter Van Loan.

Van Loan grew up hearing stories of World War II - from his own family, that fled Estonia as the Soviets first liberated and then occupied the country; and from his neighbours, some of who survived the Holocaust.

To all of them, Canada represented “the freedom, the hope... that was extinguished in their land,” Van Loan said. “There was a sense that (World War II) was a worthy and noble conflict. The 'good guys', at great sacrifice, won.”

Then, for several decades, Canada  downplayed its military history, Van Loan said, emphasizing its peace-keeping tradition – until a grassroots resurgence of pride in the country's Armed Forces and veterans restored a focus on Canada's military achievements.

Van Loan praised the Veteran Banner program, introduced to Bradford this year, as a way to honour those who have served, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice “for freedom, for hope and for democracy.... It's coming from communities, from Canadians saying, We are proud.”

Of the 159 Canadians who lost their life in Afghanistan, one – Sapper Brian Collier – is from Bradford.

A total of 29 banners were created, to be installed on the light standards on Holland St. this year - including a banner honouring Brian Collier. “The project continues,” president Giovanetti promised. “This will go on from year to year.”

Jim and Carol Collier were among those attending the dinner on Saturday night. They were presented with a certificate from the Legion, which planted a tree along the Highway of Heroes in honour of their son, as a “living memorial.”

There was a second presentation: World War II veteran Bert Hogg was overwhelmed to receive a quilted Maple Leaf blanket created by Kathleen Kelly, in honour of veterans.