ANAVETS Shoulder to Shoulder

March 2014

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O n Sunday the 1st of December 2013 two groups of Canadians, 2,700 kilometers apart, stood in the snow to remember and honour those who wore the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces and who now lie buried in military cemeteries across the country. They were taking part in the Wreaths Across Canada Service of Remem- brance in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St Johns and at the National Military Cemetery (NMC) in Beechwood Cemetery Ottawa. Between them they placed 3900 red ribbon balsam wreaths on the headstones of the veterans buried in the two cemeteries; 900 in Mount Pleasant and 3,000 in the NMC. Wreaths Across Canada is a registered charity, founded in 2007 by Craig McPhee a retired Canadian Forces Warrant Officer. In 2011, the year of the first ceremony, about 1000 members of the public were present to assist in placing a wreath on the headstone of every veteran buried at the NMC. The ANAVETS connection to this is through Honorary Dominion President, Gerry Wharton, a founding member of its board of directors. Wayne Evans a retired instructor at the College of the North Atlantic formed the Wreaths Across Canada, Mount Pleasant branch to honour his father and the 900 Newfoundland veterans buried there. We have been asked why we are doing this and the answer is straightforward. Often when Canadians remember our fallen veterans we have images of those who died in battle and who are buried overseas at places like Vimy, Normandy, Ortona and Hong Kong. Canada's Remembrance Day ceremonies although dedicated to all those who have died in the service of our country, by and large, focus on those who fell and are buried overseas. But there is more to it than that. Close to 225,000 veterans of the Canadian Forces many of whom fought in those same battles survived and returned home, some terribly wounded and who never recovered from their injuries. They lie buried in military cemeteries across Canada. Others volunteered to serve in time of war but died as a result of training accidents or disease; others served, lived out their lives and chose to be buried beside their military comrades. This figure is almost twice the number of those buried overseas. Many Canadians are not aware of this and Wreaths Across Canada feels that these forgotten or unknown heroes deserve to be honoured and remembered. Today our combat fatalities are repatriated home. The act of remembrance in this case is the placing of wreaths of remembrance on each headstone. The wreaths are provided at no cost to the public who are asked, as they place their wreaths to say aloud the name on the headstone to perpetuate the veteran's memory. Many who attend the service are the loved ones and comrades of those buried there. There were veterans, serving military personnel, families, police officers, fire- fighters, many young cadets representing the three branches of the service, scouts and others who gathered at the NMC in Ottawa for the December service. The guest of honour at the NMC was LGen Guy Thibault, the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff who reminded those present of the contributions that the members of the Canadian Forces buried in the NMC have made to our country and to the promotion of Canadian values overseas. He added that the ceremony serves to remind us of the value of freedom and to recognize the sacrifice made by members of the Canadian Forces in protecting that freedom. The weather on this day was cold and snowy and the nearly 1,000 people present could not help but be reminded of what our soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen face as they serve Canada at home and abroad. Wherever they serve in the world, be it at home serving in times of natural disaster or abroad keeping the peace, our military represents what is best about Canada and Canadians. Those who took part and stood amidst the wreath adored headstones stretching out row upon row departed with a new sense of reverence and gratitude. It is our hope that the Wreaths Across Canada Service of Remembrance will inject this sense of gratefulness for what our military personnel have done for us and to renew our commitment to those Canadians who have served and continue to serve our country so faithfully. We are committed to repeating this gesture of remembrance annually in Ottawa, and our vision is to eventually have this Service of Remembrance spread to every military cemetery across Canada. We welcome enquires from those who may be interested in starting Wreaths Across Canada branch in your town or city. Go to for information on how to contact us or to donate to our cause. We can do no more than to quote the poem by Kathleen Mills the wife of a serving Canadian soldier, who wrote: Honour On my honour, we will stand at the place where you rest and remember you. On my honour, we will pick up the torch of freedom and carry it for you. On my honour, you will not be a silent memory; we will speak of you often so the world will know what you have done. On my honour, as you reach the gates of heaven you will hear the voices of a grateful nation rise up and we will honour you. Wreaths Across Canada Service of Remembrance SHoUldEr To SHoUldEr 21 By Gerry Wharton and Bob Beaudoin

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