Thousands gathered at Kal Tire Place in Vernon Monday to honour those who served in the First World War, the war in Afghanistan, and the many wars in between.
The Vernon branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and the City of Vernon hosted the Remembrance Day ceremony on the 101st anniversary of the signing of the Armistice in France, which marked the end of the First World War.
The signing took place at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, and at 11 a.m. on Monday, the 3,000 or so people at Kal Tire Place held perfectly still for the moment of silence.
Thousands gathered at Kal Tire Place on Monday to show that they remember. pic.twitter.com/AWkQlOXCs0
— Vernon Morning Star (@VernonNews) November 11, 2019
After, many lined up to take part in the placing of dozens of wreaths at the foot of the Remembrance Day monument at the southern end of the arena floor.
To close the ceremony, the public was invited to come down from their seats and place poppies next to the wreaths.
Among those who placed a wreath layers was 97-year-old Nelson Whatmore, a Second World War veteran who also participated in two peacekeeping missions and served for 30 years across Europe and back home in Canada.
When his name and years of service were announced during the wreath-laying, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
“It’s important to remember that if it wasn’t for those boys, we wouldn’t be here. So you can’t forget them,” said Whatmore, who has yet to miss a Remembrance Day ceremony.
While Nov. 11 was a day for all to take pause and remember those who served, Whatmore said he does so on a regular basis.
“I think of the boys often. I lay there in bed in the morning and think of the men I served with. Where are they today? Even the ones who came back, you often think of them.” he said.
In December 2017, Whatmore was awarded the French Legion of Honour — France’s highest honour — for his part in the liberation of France and Europe.
The Remembrance Day service’s guest speaker, Jake Flanders, is a retired Vernon major who served his country for 26 years.
After the service, while mingling at the post-ceremony lunch at the Vernon legion, Flanders expounded on what it meant to see the full arena.
“I think it’s super important that civilians from the Vernon area come out,” he said.
“I’ve been at Remembrance Day ceremonies all across the country and Vernon has one of the best turnouts,” he said.
The service began with sentries falling in, followed by a parade of veterans who filled the arena floor. Lt. Stefan Reid led a prayer for the service and Vernon Royal Canadian Legion president Jennifer Pace read from scripture and read a poem. Music was provided by the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band, who have been gracing services in the North Okanagan for 35 years.
Beverly Fester, a veteran of the Army Navy and Airforce Unit 5, read In Flanders Fields and Don Hurst played the Last Post and the Rouse.
Kal Tire Place wasn’t the only Remembrance Day service in the area.
Others gathered at the local cenotaph, as well as in Coldstream, where wreaths were placed in honour of veterans past and present who died in sacrificeof their country.