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Veterans lead tour of Brookside Cemetery

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Korean War veterans Hugh Mackenzie and Bob Nisbet offer their services for the Remembrance Week guided tours of Brookside Cemetery.

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Korean War veterans Hugh Mackenzie and Bob Nisbet offer their services for the Remembrance Week guided tours of Brookside Cemetery. Photo Store

Brookside Cemetery, one of Canada’s largest military burial sites, is currently offering Remembrance Week tours. The tours started on Nov. 4 and will continue until Nov. 8.

The cemetery’s Field of Honour contains over 11,000 interments, each marked with an upright military monument, honouring the war veterans and military servicemen and women from the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.

Included among them are Manitoba’s most decorated Aboriginal war veteran, Sgt. Tommy Prince, and Canada’s first Silver Cross Mother, Charlotte Susan Wood.

Brookside also houses the only Commonwealth War Graves Commission Stone of Remembrance.

"The idea is, we bring the school children out and get them to sit with the veterans, so they hear the story and then ask questions," said Jane Saxby, City of Winnipeg cemeteries administrator. "One thing I want to emphasize is it’s not about promoting war or guns or anything like that. It’s about educating the schoolchildren in an interactive way about Canada’s past history. Manitoba had the highest number of volunteer recruits for both world wars and our children don’t understand that."

And it’s not just for children. In addition to Brookside’s twice-a-day school tours (9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), there will be a public tour on Fri., Nov. 8 at 10:30 a.m.

Helping lead these tours are veterans, including Bob Nisbet and Hugh Mackenzie, who served in the Korean War and are members of the Korea Veterans Association of Canada, Unit 17.

The Korean War started on June 25, 1950 and lasted until July 27, 1953, with Canadian troops remaining in Korea for three more years as military observers.

Mackenzie, 86, went over in 1951, as part of the 2nd Battalion, a Canadian Army Special Force created in response to the Chinese invasion of South Korea. Nisbet, 81, went over in August of 1952 as part of the regular forces.

Nisbet still remembers that first day in Korea.

"I remember walking up this road and my head was going around like a lighthouse beacon," Nisbet said. "I could visualize snipers and ambushes. The guys ahead of me, some of them had been there for almost a year, and they were strutting along."

Nisbet and Mackenzie remember their wartime experiences well, but the problem is some people just don’t know about the Korean War, which is often referred to as "the forgotten war."

"Many times I’ll go to a funeral, we wear our medals, and people say ‘Oh, were you in war?’ I say ‘Yes, the Korean War’ and they go ‘Oh, you’re an American.’ ‘No, I’m Canadian.’ ‘Well, Canadians weren’t in the Korean War,’" Mackenzie said.

That’s why Mackenzie and Nisbet take part in the tours at Brookside. They also hold an annual candlelight vigil on July 27 at Brookside for the 516 Canadians who lost their lives in the Korean War.

And, they attend every Korean War veteran’s funeral they can.

"We made this decision that it didn’t matter if he was a member or not, if he was in Korea, we go to the funeral and we always lay a poppy," Mackenzie said.

Phone 204-986-4348 to arrange a tour of Brookside Cemetery.

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