As a slight drizzle and chilly temperatures greeted them at Vernon’s Pleasant Valley Cemetery Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, Grade 6 and 7 students from Harwood Elementary School were given a brief history lesson.
The students, there for the annual No Stone Left Alone ceremony, were told how Canadian soldiers in both world wars, but especially the First World War, faced similar, if not worse, conditions in fighting the German forces.
“Think of what the soldiers went through, lots of cold and rain, lots of people getting sick,” said Lawrna Myers of the host Vernon and District Family History Society who organizes the No Stone Left Alone ceremony in Vernon.
The aim of No Stone Left Alone is to educate students about Canada’s extensive history of service to country and to remember the fallen by placing the Legion symbol of remembrance – the poppy – at each veteran’s headstone.
This year’s ceremony is being held over two days due to COVID-19 protocols which will see 212 students from Harwood, Mission Hill Elementary and Vernon and W.L. Seaton secondary schools – all in groups of five or six students – placing nearly 1,100 poppies in the local cemetery.
Group leader Ashley Kotz and her fellow Harwood Grade 7 students Alexus Wolden, Oliver Williamson, Josh Tran and Brady Forsyth were given a map of 20 veterans, all of whom either fought in the Second World War or contributed military service, and their burial places.
At each grave, the group would have one person call out the name of the fallen and place a poppy on or near the marker. There would also be a few seconds of reflection.
“It’s very important that we do this to remember those who fought in the war,” said Kotz.
Vernon’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 conducted a remembrance service for Grade 10 students from Vernon Secondary School.
MC Bill Carr from the Legion told the students at this time of year a century ago, Canada was bringing back all of the soldiers from Europe in the midst of the Spanish Flu epidemic. Those soldiers, he said, suddenly had to hit the streets to figure out how to retire into civilian life and make a living.
“It’s not very much different from what you’re going through in school right,” said Carr. “You’re thinking about, ‘where am I going in the future,’ and ‘how am I going to contribute.’ But over your life, every year at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, you’ll be gathered somewhere for a Remembrance Day ceremony. It should be important to you now and every more.”
A colour guard made up of members of the Legion and Army Navy and Air Force Veterans were also part of the ceremony.
VSS students Gaia Fraser and Jada Nassichuk contributed readings, Nassichuk reading aloud In Flanders Fields, written in the First World War by Canadian physician Lt.-Col. John McCrae, while Fraser contributed the Commitment to Remember.
W.L. Seaton Grade 11 bugler Jonathan Finlayson played The Last Post.