The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 153 Tillsonburg, maintained its Canada Day tradition with a Remembrance Service last Thursday at the cenotaph.
“This has to happen every year,” said Branch 153 member Dr. Jason Pankratz, MC for Thursday’s Canada Day service. “I think it’s important, especially now, to reaffirm that the Legion is an active part of our community, and to see the veterans who are still coming out amidst the restrictions. Even though they’ve opened up nicely, it’s important to see some of our most elderly comrades coming out and celebrating.
“This is about the veterans’ service and continuing service in our community,” said Pankratz. “And that’s the importance of what the Legion does on Canada Day.
“We can’t forget,” said Dianne Hodges, Branch 153 president. “We just can’t forget. That’s the basis of the Legion – and we just have to do it. So that people can remember, and we can educate them, and say thank you to our veterans.”
During the service, Pankratz said to those in attendance, “We think reverently of those of our comrades who by sea, by land and in the air laid down their lives for their sovereign and country. Their sacrifice will ever inspire us to labour on to the end. That those who survived and need our aid may be assured of assistance and that the country in which we live, and for which they died, may ever be worthy of the sacrifice they made.
“During the silence we will remember our fallen comrades who have since passed on since we last gathered together.”
Mayor Stephen Molnar thanked the veterans present Thursday, and those who have gone before, and spoke about the importance of Legion values and protecting them, and wished everyone a safe Canada Day.
Deputy Mayor Dave Beres also thanked the veterans and everyone in attendance Thursday, noting that “We have freedom because of sacrifice. It’s a privilege to be free.”
“As I stand before you on this Canada Day, 154 years after Confederation, I do so as one who is proud to have also served for just 15 years, some much longer, on the Canadian Forces, and also proud to be a citizen of this great land,” said Legion Padre Paul Robinson.
“At the same time, in light of the continuing gut-wrenching revelations about the horrors of residential schools and terrible injustices that have been foisted upon our First Nations, I have to say, as with many Canadians, my heart is truly heavy.”
Accounts of what was inflicted upon First Nations people, said Robinson, have brought a stain upon our pride as Canadians.
“And yet, we have much of which to be proud. So we must never, ever lose sight of that. As we look back on the sacrifices of so many brave men and women who placed their lives on the line, who died in World War I, World War II, Korea, Afghanistan, as well as in various peacekeeping missions along the way, how can we not be proud? And so very, very thankful.
“Nor was it just non-Aboriginals who placed their lives on the line. Conscription was brought in for World War I and World War II, but Native Canadians were not subject to conscription – and yet, I would have you take note of this, over 7,000 treaty (Indigenous) volunteered to serve in the two World Wars and in Korea. Men like Sergeant Tommy Prince, much decorated for his bravery in several theatres in both World War II and in Korea; Lieutenant David Greyeyes, who commanded a mortar platoon in Italy and was decorated for valour. Two of Lieutenant Greyeyes’ brothers and sister also served. Corporal Huron Brant, who received a Military Medal in 1943 from none other than Field Marshal Montgomery himself for bravery in Sicily. Corporal Brant was killed a year later in Rimini; and Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, who in World War I received a Military Medal… As with so many others, we owe them, as we owe all of our veterans, our deepest gratitude.
“So today, as we like to celebrate this great nation, we honour all the veterans who made it possible. We honour them by remembering their sacrifice. We thank them for the legacy that we received from those who did not hold back, but risked their lives for us here today, serving and sacrificing…”