Hundreds gather in Winnipeg to remember fallen soldiers
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/11/2017 (1967 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Not a seat was empty, or a lapel without a poppy, at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the RCB Convention Centre Saturday, as hundreds gathered to honour those who’ve laid their lives on the line in service for Canada.
Men and women in uniform — many with medals pinned to their chests — filled the room. A deep sense of reverence could be felt as the veterans gathered with family, friends, politicians and citizens.
On a projection screen behind the stage footage of the Second World War played, interspersed with interviews of the men and women who were there and lived to talk about it.
Of the veterans in attendance, many gathered amongst themselves, catching up with old friends and swapping stories. While many wore different coloured uniforms, different coloured berets and had different medals pinned to their chests, they all had one thing in common: a poppy on their lapel.
Occasionally throughout the ceremony music filled the air — a snare drum and horns playing military songs, or a lone trumpeter blowing out The Last Post, before a moment of silence.
Following the passing of the torch, Rev. Bruce Miles addressed the crowd, holding up and old black and white photograph in front of him.
In it, a young boy is seen running after his father who is marching out of town for war. His mother chases behind and his father almost breaks ranks by reaching out for his son’s hand — maybe for the last time.
It is for those left behind, as well as those who’ve died, that we must remember and honour, Miles said. He knows the feeling of being left behind first-hand, having lost his older brother to the Second World War.
“I’d never seen my father cry before. I’d never seen my mother numb with grief,” he said of the day they learnt of his brother’s death.
A cenotaph — honouring those who have died in combat — stood in the corner of the room, flanked on the corners by servicemen stoically standing with rifles. One-by-one people unpinned their poppies and placed them on the cenotaph.
Among all those in attendance with a personal and painful connection to the realities of war, only a handful got the opportunity to lay a wreath during the ceremony. One of them was Wendy Hayward, this year’s Silver Cross Mother for the ceremony.
“There were times today that my heart hurt,” Hayward said, pain audible in her voice. She paused for a moment, teary eyed, before composing herself and continuing.
“But there were more times today when I was just overflowing with pride. It’s an honour to be asked to lay the wreath on behalf of the mothers and to keep that promise that Canada will never forget.”
A Silver Cross Mother is chosen each year to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremony. The wreath they lay is in honour of all mothers who lost a child in service of their country.
Hayward’s son, Cpl. James Arnal, was killed in action during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2008. He was 25-years-old.
“I sometimes feel guilty that I didn’t put my foot down and tell him not to go. But I think as parents the only thing you can do is support and encourage your children to follow their heart. And he was following his heart,” she said.
Arnal was on foot patrol when an improvised explosive device was remotely detonated. He was carrying a number of grenades at the time, which created a secondary explosion, and was killed instantly.
“He was kind of blown away. They had to find him,” Hayward says, again emotion and pain taking over her voice. “He died, but I’m sure he would have chosen to take that hit rather than anyone else he worked with.”
She remembers her son as an adventurous and kind hearted man, who “lived 50-years in his 25-year life.”
“I miss him every day,” she said.
Arnal was known to give portions of his food rations to children in Afghanistan who were hungry, according to his mother. Eventually an order came down that soldiers would no longer be able to do so. It was an order he ignored, says Hayward, as he was unable to see a hungry child and not do something about it.
She says it was for the children of Afghanistan, as well as his buddies in the military (who he considered family), that he went back for a second tour of duty.
At the end of the ceremony, after the politicians and citizens and most of the veterans had filed out the room, Hayward walked over to the cenotaph, slowly unpinned her poppy from her shirt, and pinned it next to the hundreds of others that had been left behind.
And as she did so, undoubtedly, she was thinking of her son: Cpl. James Arnal.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Saturday, November 11, 2017 11:53 PM CST: Story edited