ANAVETS Shoulder to Shoulder

May 2019

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M y first words are how extremely honoured and moved I was to have this opportunity to commemorate the Armistice Centennial. I was selected to represent ANAVETS as a member of the Canadian Veterans Affairs Official Party. Along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who joined us at Vimy Ridge, and Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O'Regan, there were 12 veterans, two special quests, four students, four Members of Parliament and the amazing VAC staff and medical team that took care of our every need and comfort. These are the events we attended and some personal notes: On August 8, 1918 Canadians led an offensive starting what was known as Canada's Hundred Days leading to the end of the war. During these days, 30 Canadians and Newfoundlanders earned the Victoria Cross and more than 6,800 men were killed and approximately 39,000 wounded in the last months of fighting. It's important to remember, because of the loss we as Canadians endured during this time. As we visited the sites, my fellow members found names and regiments to which we were affiliated with or were family. There were many truly somber moments for all of us. We first visited the Canadian Centre for the Great War in Montreal for a refresher and a better understanding of the equipment, clothing and conditions the soldiers experienced. Then we flew to Brussels, where we were met by an escort of police that stayed with the contingent for the remainder of our tour. Here are the details of our busy schedule: • Plaque unveiling memory of 19th Battalion Hyon, Belgium. • Mons Memorial Museum. • St. Julien Canadian Memorial. • Railway Dugouts Burial Grounds Cemetery. • Ypres Menin Gate. • Vimy Ridge, France. • St. Symphorien Military Cemetery, Mons. • VIP lunch hosted by Mayor of Le Roeulx at Chateau de Roeulx. • Price Monument, Ville-sur-Haine, Belgium. • Sound and Light Performance, Mons and Concert at Theatre Royal de Mons. • Mons Municipal Cemetery. • Wreath Laying Grand Place, Mons. • VIP lunch hosted by Mayor of Mons. • Liberation Parade Grand Place, Mons. On the first day we went to the town of Hyon to unveil a plaque. As we drove into the town, school children waved flags and cheered - a humbling experience, considering 100 years ago our soldiers fought and died to liberate this town. After the ceremony, we marched with a piper to the school and an Indigenous group performed song and dance. The children were holding red and white balloons and were excited to let them go after explaining that every balloon included the name of a Canadian soldier that liberated the town. What a wonderful sight, bringing tears to many of us. It was a great time to stand here for these soldiers and it filled me with great pride to be a Canadian. The Railway Dugouts Burial Ground Cemetery has 2,459 Common- wealth burials and commemorations of the First World War - 559 Canadian; 430 Unidentified; and 261 represented by special memorials including the special memorials of 72 soldiers buried in the annex cemetery where graves were destroyed in later fighting. I had the privilege of laying a wreath on behalf of Canada and helping lay poppy crosses and Canadian flags. We then went to Ypres, Menin Gate where we laid a wreath and searched for names and regiments we represented. I found the name of a soldier for our Métis Veterans Manitoba and sent the picture of the wall to them. Half the contingent joined the Prime Minister for a ceremony at Vimy Ridge. First, we held a ceremony at Canadian Cemetery # 2, with the indigenous contingent performing a ceremony and two of our youth delegates speaking and doing a great job representing our youth in Canada. The Price Monument is where Private George Lawrence Price, the last Canadian soldier to die in battle during the First World War died at Mons, Belgium, about two minutes before the signing of the Armistice. This beautiful monument, more than six-metres high, is placed near where he fell in November, 1918. What a thrill it was to be here for the dedication of this monument and having the honour to share it with his family and nephew George Barkhouse, a retired veteran. The last ceremony was the Liberation Parade and remembrance ceremony including regiments past and present and veterans parading through to the Grand Place. After the parade, there was a commemorative ceremony with Canada and Belgium. I stood where our brother-in-arms stood 100 years ago, after liberating Mons and the end of the war. With the Last Post and then Reveille sounding, and tears streaming down my face, I felt 10-feet tall and proud to be a Canadian. I felt proud of all the soldiers before me and know they were looking down and knowing we did not forget. We Will Remember Them. We do remember them. To all who were on this journey, thank you for your friendship, dedication and caring. VAC staff/medical staff are amazing. To the politicians, thank you for your concerns and taking care of us. To Minister of Veterans Affairs, The Honourable Seamus O'Regan, thanks for your enthusiasm and upbeat demeanor on a very busy schedule. When was the last time you thought to say thank you for our freedom? Thank a Veteran for their service. 26 SHOULDER TO SHOULDER Ce lebrating the 100 th Anniversary of the end of the First World War By R.G. (Huggie) Hemlow CD

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