For residents of Pincher Creek, Remembrance Day was an occasion commemorated with both respectful solemnity in a moving wreath-laying ceremony and fellowship in a social lunch afterwards.
Each year, businesses, organizations, service clubs, and families in the town and surrounding area support the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #43 by purchasing wreaths to be laid at the Remembrance Day service, held in the Pincher Creek community hall.
John Barlow, MP for the Foothills area, was this year’s guest speaker at the service, and spoke about the sacrifices made by Canadians during the World Wars, which he described as nothing short of awe-inspiring.
He also said that Canadians have a solemn duty to remember those sacrifices, especially as fewer and fewer people are alive who have first-hand memories of them.
“Everybody is thankful and everybody remembers,” said Christopher Charette, a retired sergeant who served in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry throughout his 22-year military career, during which he served seven operational tours overseas.
“It’s nice to see all ages,” he said of the ceremony, describing the large crowd in attendance as a “demographic buffet.” From young children presenting wreaths with their parents to elderly Legion members remembering their comrades and experiences, the community of Pincher Creek paid respectful homage to Canada’s fallen soldiers.
After the service and wreath-laying, a social was held at the Legion clubroom, with chili and donated kegs downstairs for adults, and hot dogs and cocoa upstairs for families with children.
There were also events in the clubroom such as 50/50 draws which support the Legion’s Christmas Hamper program, meat draws, and live entertainment, including singalongs from the Legion songbook.
Comrade Hal Sigurdson, one of the Legion members who laid the wreaths at the ceremony, said that the most important aspect of Remembrance Day is ensuring that young people are educated about what it is and what it means.
Sigurdson visits local schools with fellow veterans before Nov. 11 to teach children about the significance of Remembrance Day.
He said that the Pincher Creek Legion does an excellent job of keeping young people involved and aware, through both these school visits and their encouragement of the Remembrance Day poster and essay contests.
“If you don’t tell the kids, it’s going to be forgotten,” said Sigurdson, who served as a master corporal in the air force during his long military career. He spent 28 years with the military in active service, after which he worked for it in a civilian capacity and as a driver.
“I’m glad I was in and I never regretted a moment of it,” he said.
Memories of service on Remembrance Day
For some veterans, such as 92-year old Legion member Woody Raley, the social atmosphere of the post-service lunch brings back many memories, some of them painful.
“I watched some of my buddies getting killed,” said Raley, who joined the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment at 17 years old and served as a corporal in England, Italy, France, Germany, and Holland during the Second World War.
“We were some of the troops that liberated Holland,” he said. He also said that while his short military career was an interesting time, it’s difficult for him to describe, a sentiment shared by Charette.
“It’s hard,” Charette said. “You don’t spend 22 years of your life in service to others and not have some memorable moments. Some moments are good, and some are bad.”
Despite that, Charette said he misses the military.
“I miss the structure and the shared experiences. I miss shaping future leaders.”
He also stressed the importance of observing Remembrance Day, even for people who don’t have the personal connection he and his family have.
“The only reason we have the life, the children, and the activities we have is because of soldiers’ sacrifices.”