Something of the futility of war struck home for the Rev. John McKay as he sat sharing stories with a farmer’s wife in Saskatchewan several years ago.
“I missed the British call up by one year,” he told the audience of more than 2,000 gathered at Kal Tire Place for the one of two Remembrance Day services held in the city Saturday. A service was held at the local cenotaph, and was attended by a large crowd.
“All through my high school years the threat hung over me, that like some of my older friends, I might be sent to the Persian Gulf, or Cypress or to fight in other conflicts going on at the time. I talked to a number of people over the years, about what war might be like.
One of those people, he recalled, was a Saskatchewan woman.
“As young children she had escaped from the RAF’s bombing of Dresdan, and I had escaped the Luftwaffe’s bombing of London, and here we were, both safe and sound, and free in Canada.”
Clad in white vestments (robes), the Anglican clergyman led those in attendance in a prayer for those who died defending the country and its way of life before urging the audience to reflect, not only those who lost their lives during the wars and conflicts – but on the impact on those who survived to tell their stories.
McKay was one of several invited to speak at the massive service Saturday morning.
The ceremony recognized Canada’s “honourable” past, but also emphasized more recent conflicts and veterans who have died since returning home. Guest speaker Dennis Windsor, also took a moment to bring attention to the psychological toll that war takes on its current and former military personnel.
This year also marks the centennial of two famous battles: the Battle of Passchendaele, which ended on Nov. 10, 1917 after some 4,000 Canadians were killed; and the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which saw nearly 3,600 Canadians killed. It is also the 75th anniversary of the Second World War’s famed Dieppe Raid.