It's 06:00 on November 11, 2014 in Vancouver, BC CANADA. A group of men are meeting for breakfast at the Denny’s restaurant on Broadway as they have for almost 20 years now. The men range in age from children as young as 6 to men who have been long since retired. Some of the men are here for the first time, and other have been meeting here on this day and time for more than a decade. They share of recollections of years gone by and reminisce of the men they used to know who have passed on to the paradise above.
At 08:00 The sun is just breaking over the tops of buildings radiating its golden rays of warmth to the men now huddled in a circle, preparing for the day. The sky is a crisp clear blue and the temperate just below zero. Even more men arrive to join the circle of fellowship.
The men are all here for their own reasons, some to honour family members who have passed on, some to honour the Veterans for the freedoms we now enjoy. No matter their individual reason for attending what is clear for anyone present is the collective aim to be of service to the Veterans for this one day every year.
Almost all of the Veterans have very limited mobility, and would certainly not otherwise be able to attend the Remembrance day ceremony if it was not for the men who arrive each year to escort them to the event.
This years ceremony at Victory Square, located at Hastings & Cambie in Vancouver, was the best yet according to many of the attendees. Citing not only the good weather, but also the choreography of the event by city officials and volunteers. “The fly-by with the planes overhead, the guns going-off in the distance, the two trumpet players on either side of the square, and whole audience singing O’ Canada, brought tears to my eyes” said one of the men. Another moved by the reading of the poem "Young Fellow My Lad" said; "I try to imagine ‘my’ young son heading off to war, never to return" and chokes up unable to finish his sentence...
"Where are you going, Young Fellow My Lad,
On this glittering morn of May?"
"I'm going to join the Colours, Dad;
They're looking for men, they say."
"But you're only a boy, Young Fellow My Lad;
You aren't obliged to go."
"I'm seventeen and a quarter, Dad,
And ever so strong, you know."
* * * *
"So you're off to France, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you're looking so fit and bright."
"I'm terribly sorry to leave you, Dad,
But I feel that I'm doing right."
"God bless you and keep you, Young Fellow My Lad,
You're all of my life, you know."
"Don't worry. I'll soon be back, dear Dad,
And I'm awfully proud to go."
* * * *
"Why don't you write, Young Fellow My Lad?
I watch for the post each day;
And I miss you so, and I'm awfully sad,
And it's months since you went away.
And I've had the fire in the parlour lit,
And I'm keeping it burning bright
Till my boy comes home; and here I sit
Into the quiet night.
* * * *
"What is the matter, Young Fellow My Lad?
No letter again to-day.
Why did the postman look so sad,
And sigh as he turned away?
I hear them tell that we've gained new ground,
But a terrible price we've paid:
God grant, my boy, that you're safe and sound;
But oh I'm afraid, afraid."
* * * *
"They've told me the truth, Young Fellow My Lad:
You'll never come back again:
(Oh God! the dreams and the dreams I've had,
and the hopes I've nursed in vain!)
For you passed in the night, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you proved in the cruel test
Of the screaming shell and the battle hell
That my boy was one of the best.
"So you'll live, you'll live, Young Fellow My Lad,
In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child,
In all sweet things that are.
And you'll never die, my wonderful boy,
While life is noble and true;
For all our beauty and hope and joy
We will owe to our lads like you."
by Robert William Service
a young girl manages to escape the grasp of her parents to pick up 'helicopters" during the Remembrance day service
Holding high the Canadian flag, 12 year old Landen Elston (accompanied by his father Will Elston) led the procession of Veterans from Victory Square to their next stop of the day. An annual tradition the Veterans make a stop at The Bourbon – a country music bar two blocks east of Victory Square has been hosting the Veterans for almost 20 years. The bar provides the Veterans with sandwiches, beer, music, and a large following of appreciative patrons.
Rosemary Edmiston, an annual attendee said she has been coming to the Remembrance Day Veterans event at The Bourbon for almost 20yrs. “My grandfather fought in WW I, and Remembrance Day is a very special day. I feel it’s incumbent upon all of us to be cognizant of Canada’s place in history and to remember the people that fought so hard for the freedoms that we enjoy today,” says Edmiston.
The event has become a common meeting ground for friends, Veterans, and community members alike. Inspired by last year’s annual toast of another event patron; James Braid (pictured below), Rosemary took it upon herself to write a song for the Veterans and event attendees.
“I was so inspired by James! Last years speech moved me so much… I said to myself, I have to write a song! Edmiston had one year to write practice and perfect her the lyrics, and guitar accompaniment which she played in public for first time to the patrons of the Bourbon.
Her performance was met with raucous cheers and applause. One attendee rushing up to offer to create a music video for the musician free of charge. When asked about her motivation Rosemary replied; “I’m just a humble Canadian citizen and I want to thank the Vets and this song is the vehicle I chose to do it with.” Adding; “James’ toast touched on the past, present and the future and that’s the approach I took with the lyrics.”
Rosemary is currently working on the music video for her song that she hopes will be sung on a regular basis every Remembrance Day.
[When the video is completed the link will appear here: stay tuned!]
To find out more about country music in Vancouver or to attend next years event visit:
Michael Tiernan and his young son Valen have been coming to the cenotaph to thank the veterans every year since 2008. I encourage everyone to read Michael's diary blog post [when posted]. In his blog Michael shares his experience as a father broaching the difficult subject of war with his then 2 1/2 year old son. He gives a heartfelt account that should be an inspiration to all Canadians. The blog may also serve as a tool for parents who are interested in Michael's approach.
Michael Tiernan Blog:
[When the blog is completed the link will appear here: stay tuned!]
To find out more about these men and their day of service, check out their video (link below). It includes details on how you can replicate what they do in your city, how you can support community volunteerism, teach good citizenry to youth, and above all honour the men who put their lives in harms way to give us all the freedoms we enjoy today.
Lest we Forget series:
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